Speaking to hundreds of people at a vigil in Florida Thursday night, father Fred Guttenberg described seeing his 14-year-old daughter for the last time Wednesday morning, just hours before she was killed in one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.
Speaking to the crowd of mourners at the Pine Trails Park Amphitheater in Parkland, Fred explained that during the rush of his family’s morning routine, “sometimes things get so crazy” and Jaime would run out of the house with an “I gotta go, dad!” without fully saying goodbye.
“I don’t always get to say I love you,” Fred said of their mornings. “I don’t remember if I said that to Jaime yesterday morning.”
Fred, whose son Jesse survived the massacre, told the crowd that his main priority is to protect his children.
“She was supposed to be safe,” Fred said about sending his daughter to Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School Wednesday morning. “My job is to protect my children, and I sent my kid to school.”
“Jaime was such a special kid,” Fred said, looking back on his daughter. “She was the life of the party, she was the energy in the room. She made people laugh, and yes, sometimes she made us cry. But she was always known. She always made her presence felt.”
Fred, who added he recently lost his brother to a Sept. 11-related illness, said: “What is unfathomable is Jaime took a bullet and is dead. I don’t know what I do next.”
In the midst of Wednesday’s chaos, Fred wrote on Facebook that his son was found safe, but that the Guttenbergs “cannot reach Jaime.”
He later confirmed that Jaime was killed in the shooting.
“My heart is broken,” Fred wrote. “We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family get's through this.”
In Parkland Thursday night, Fred said that his family is “broken,” and said that children need to understand that “when you look at us parents like we are crazy, like we are trying too hard to protect you … just remember it’s because we love you, and we never want to go through the tragedy of losing you.”
“Parents,” Fred said, “Love your kids, hold your kids, kiss your kids, and don’t ever, ever miss the chance to tell them how much you love them.”