Monday, November 9, 2020


When I first started reading “Find the Helpers,” by Fred Guttenberg, I was unsure about what to expect. Because of an unthinkable tragedy, Fred has become a welcomed face and loud voice advocating common sense gun control. But before that happened, I knew his daughter Jaime and his wife Jennifer as regular customers in our dance store. Jaime loved to dance and she did something about it. She had dreams and dedication, a powerful combination.

We live in a small city next to Parkland, in Coral Springs, and the dance and entertainment community, despite its high profile, is always relatively small. Four fatal victims of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas murders were or had been regular customers at our store. The father of one of our customers died in the tragedy too. A murdered boy was a close friend to one of our employees. We were hit hard, it was emotional and gut wrenching, but not as hard as for any of the survivor families. My father died unexpectedly from gun violence over thirty years ago. That is a phone call I wish upon no one to receive; it marks you for life. You learn to live with it, you never move on. And you know how it hits when it happens to others.

My wife and I have become closer to Jennifer and Fred since the tragedy and, as I said, I did not know what to expect from the book. It is a personal story of transformation. Fred takes us through the emotional bonds in his life, his failures and successes as an everyday American within a supportive family network. He shares his pain vividly as he tells us about an event that affected us all, 9/11, and how that monstrous attack’s toxic aftermath eventually led to the death of his younger brother, an iconic hero loved by his community of first responders.

-- BANG!!--

A single shot felled Jaime six minutes into the attack, seconds away from bending around a corner into safety. An instant that ended her life after minutes of terror which transformed the lives of many. A devastating blow to any loving family, to sixteen other families who lost a loved one; to another sixteen, those of the seventeen wounded (one family grieved one dead son, while tending their other one at the hospital); and of two others afterwards, suicides brought upon by their PTSD.  A blow changing the life of the thousands of students at MSD and to our cities of Parkland and Coral Springs.

Fred writes about how he picked up most of the pieces to find a new mission in life. From living a normal American life, he realized that our lives are all intertwined and that while the tragedy of 9/11 had brought changes to the way we live a far more deadly force, gun violence, is pervasive and no major regulatory effort is being undertaken to curb it. In fact, quite the contrary, the root of this violence is fed by a supposedly nonprofit civic organization that in reality is a powerful lobbying machine for gun and ammunition manufacturers.

The National Rifle Association is singularly responsible for successfully expanding the massive uncontrolled sale and distribution of guns and ammunition in the United States and, increasingly, abroad. The NRA has transformed the Second Amendment into a marketing slogan and, on every occasion they have, they stoke fears and animosity to urge people to buy more, buy more, buy more guns and bullets. That is their purpose: to be a commercial, highly profitable enterprise cloaking itself in an extreme interpretation of the Constitution. That is why they oppose any possible restrictive measure related to responsible gun ownership. They want to sell more.

At first a pained cynic, Fred finds in the receptivity to his message from the public, politicians and media, solace and support for his mission: “I’m going to break that fucking gun lobby”. He has found helpers. He almost surprises himself when this world actually listens to him and that many have the same goals as he does, confronting an inertia which can only be qualified as irresponsibly divisive and toxic. Fred pushes against that inertia, he is an advocate now.

Fred has made a journey through life that has shaped his mission. After deeply personal tragedies he found helpers out there. From a stranger on the street that called his family to let them know his brother was okay on 9/11, to a helper personified in the now President Elect, Joe Biden, comforting him by giving him a sense of purpose shortly after Jaime was brutally and senselessly murdered.

Fred wants us to know that when we are at our most distraught and downtrodden, there are helpers out there. If we open our eyes and ears we will see them, find them. And that from the deepest tragedies and downfalls we can rebuild and be part of our community, never forgetting, but with a new drive and purpose, becoming helpers too.

This deeply personal book has a message for us all and it is a message of love. We are better when we are together. Our communities thrive through our bonds with it, common kindness and common sense. We carry on our shoulders the love and spirit of those that have left us, driving us to build better todays for everyone and to fight against the forces trying to break us. As the love of Fred for Jaime drives him to spread this message of love throughout the world, our community and my family wants to let him know we love him and his family back. Thanks for all you do.

Fred Guttenberg
Mango Publishing, Coral Gables, 2020

Available through Orange Ribbons for Jaime


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