Fred Guttenberg: A Father-Turned-Activist
On Valentine’s Day 2018, a 19-year-old ex-student took an Uber to his old high school; he walked across the campus and into a three-story building, where he killed 17 people and injured 17 more. It was the sixth of 24 shootings in U.S. schools last year, but the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the catalyst for a nationwide movement. The school’s students rallied more than half a million people to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives and galvanized support for some 67 new gun laws.
They became the public face of the tragedy, but back home many families of the victims have spent the year contending, privately, with the consequences of that day. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Parkland, Rolling Stone sat down with some of the survivors, including the Dworet family; students Maddy and John Wilford; graduate Chris Grady; Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the shooting; and teacher Ivy Schamis.
“Everybody thinks this gets easier as time goes on,” Fred Guttenberg says of losing his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime. “It actually doesn’t. It gets harder, because every day there’s just going to be a new reminder of what you lost.”
The day after Jaime’s death, Guttenberg delivered an emotional, extemporaneous speech at a vigil; it was picked up by the news. Less than a week later he confronted Sen. Marco Rubio at a CNN town hall. “For the rest of that week, I was literally going from interview to interview to interview to interview,” he says. “I would do my best to keep it together, and then I would hang up and I would just cry like a baby.”
Guttenberg used to own Dunkin’ Donuts franchises; now he’s become a full-time activist opposing the NRA and telling any politician who will listen about what happened to his daughter, a high school freshman and competitive dancer. He has one rule: “I wouldn’t ever sit down with these people — I stood,” Guttenberg says. “I did not want to make anybody feel comfortable talking about what happened to my daughter…the second-to-last to be shot, on the third floor of this school, running from an active shooter. One shot in her spine. Because it could have been their kid, and they’re going to know that.”
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