By: Sharon Aron Baron
An event to empower the community and demand change before the midterm elections brought businessman, politician, author, and philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Coral Springs.
Sharing their personal stories as well were Fred Guttenburg and Manuel Oliver at the packed Coral Springs Museum.
Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime on February 14, said that his great regret in life now was he was on the sidelines before. He told the story about how he lost his brother to cancer as a result of his service in 9/11 one year ago.
“I thought that was as bad as things could get. It wouldn’t get any worse, for sure.”
But this time was worse.
“It started in my house like any other day. We were making sure the kids got off to school. They were running late. My wife and I needed to get ourselves out for work. That’s what I remember about that morning. It’s what I don’t remember that will haunt me every second for every day for the rest of my life. I don’t remember in the middle of that chaos if I remembered to say ‘I love you.’”
His daughter Jaime was murdered at school that day.
“Jaime was the toughest person I knew and she fought for her life running down a hallway from an active shooter until ‘Boom!’ A single shot through her side severed her spinal cord.”
Guttenberg said he didn’t know if Jaime died instantly and didn’t know if his daughter suffered, and that has been in his head every second everyday motivating and pushing him.
“For those who want to know why I’ve become active in gun safety and why I call for this orange wave in November: When your day starts with a visit to the cemetery to visit your forever 14-year-old daughter, you have no choice. When I think about Jaime running down the hallway, fighting for her life with an active shooter at her back. I have no choice.”
The goal for Guttenberg’s orange wave in November is to get out the vote. Policy doesn’t matter he said – we need to make change.
“Gun safety is a man-made issue,” said Guttenburg. “When the new congress sits, it needs to be clear to the legislature that some were fired because of where they stood on this issue and new ones were hired because of where they stand on this issue.”
Tomorrow another hundred people will die said Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14.
Oliver challenged the notion to arm teachers and said that according to that logic, musicians and bartenders in Las Vegas should have been armed. That answer was the answer from the gun lobby he said.
“How about disarming the shooter, isn’t that easier? That is the only option.”
He told people not to feel sorry for Patricia or him or any of the other parents, but to feel sorry for Joaquin because he had the right to live.
He said he blamed the NRA for what happened to Joaquin. He held up a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, and said that citizens made change before by getting rid of dangerous influences like tobacco.
“We decided that the tobacco industry wasn’t cool. Imagine someone running for senate or governor and being endorsed by the tobacco industry. It’s funny, right? That’s going to happen to the NRA.”
Michael Bloomberg told the audience that the Parkland massacre occurred on his birthday and said he will always remember what happened, and hopefully each year they will come closer to their goal of doing something about it.
“I’m going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that I and everyone else does not go through what you did,” he said.
He thanked the Parkland community that had stood up and spoken out by organizing, rallying, marching and raising awareness and money as well as by inspiring so many people around them.
You are making people change their views little by little and you are going to beat the NRA he said.
“Over the past eight months I think the Parkland community has changed people’s conversations on guns and translated it into real results. It turns out that in Florida, the state lawmakers, after years of bending to the NRA, have finally defied them and enacted several strong laws. But now our job is to make sure those laws are enforced because otherwise it’s just a piece of paper and doesn’t do anything.”
Bloomberg, a former Republican who became an Independent in 2007, stressed that this wasn’t about politics, this was about elected officials not having the courage to stand up and do what is right.
“There are 32 days left, this is an all-hands-on deck-situation. It isn’t easy. But doing good things is never easy. If it were easy, it would have been done before.”