Stories From Parkland: Jaime Guttenberg

In the weeks following the deadliest high school shooting in United States history, editors and reporters for Lifestyle reached out to dozens of people whose lives were forever altered by what happened inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. We interviewed the officer who made the arrest and the sheriff who’s under fire. We spoke to student activists and students from a high school in west Boca Raton who walked 12 miles in a show of solidarity. We met survivors of a mass shooting in Orlando and survivors from the third floor at MSD. We attended an emotional town hall with members of the Parkland community. And we listened as grieving parents and heartbroken friends and family told us about their loved ones.

We’re deeply honored to share their words with our readers.

Age 14

On Feb. 18, Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg were supposed to be watching their daughter, Jaime, perform in the first dance competition of the season. Instead, they were at a cemetery with 1,000 mourners, many of them wearing orange ribbons, to say goodbye to their little girl.

Jaime was a talented dancer with Dance Theatre at Parkland, and her favorite color was orange. So, when the girls at Dance Theatre decided to honor her memory, they launched a social media movement called “Orange Ribbons for Jaime,” which went viral. Messages and tributes to Jaime arrived from dancers around the world, from Florida to Finland; it even got the attention of American Ballet Theater, which dedicated a performance to Jaime’s memory.

Jaime was only 14, but, to her family, she was an “old soul.” She was only halfway through her freshman year of high school, but she was poised and mature beyond her years.

“Jaime is … was, the toughest person I knew,” says her father, Fred, who has spoken out for gun reform and policy changes since the shooting, including a memorable exchange with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at the CNN town hall. “Jaime didn’t put up with the typical teenage BS. Dance was her passion, but her heart was big.”

That heart was evident in her volunteer work for programs such as Best Buddies and the Friendship Initiative, both of which involve children with special needs and developmental challenges. “Jaime had zero tolerance for bullying,” Fred says. “She was the kid who stood up for the ones being bullied.”

Jaime was so focused that she not only knew what she wanted to do in life, but where she wanted to do it. Her mother, Jennifer, is a pediatric occupational therapist and often would take Jaime to work with her. It was there that Jaime set her sights on being a pediatric physical therapist at the Paley Institute, working with children with disfigured limbs.

When she wasn’t dancing, volunteering or doing homework, Jaime loved to “park her tush on the sofa,” Fred says, and watch TV. “She loved her [shows], especially ‘Friends.’ Jaime and her brother, Jesse, and I were addicted to ‘Chicago Fire,’ ‘Chicago P.D.’ and ‘Chicago Med.’ It was an important part of our time together.

“She was silly, crazy, loved to laugh, could make us cry, and I always said she was the energy in the room. The world lost a good one when we lost her.”

—Lisa Lucas

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