My daughter Jaime was a beautiful young girl, only 14 years old when she was murdered. She was a competitive dancer who inspired others to want to dance too. What I’m most proud of is his humanity. She has volunteered for children with special needs. She always stepped in the middle when she encountered bullying. Jaime dreamed of being a pediatric physiotherapist and helping children with limb disabilities to walk for the very first time. She loved her family and she loved her dogs. She always told us how she would be married at 25 and planned to have two children – of course with two dogs too.
Here’s who Jaime was and what I hope you’ll think about when you hear the news about the Parkland shooter, who recently pleaded guilty and will now face a death sentence. The media will be interested in what is going on in this courtroom and among the jurors who will decide whether the shooter pays the ultimate price. But what I would like is to deny the notoriety. Instead, I would like you to remember what I told you about Jaime, and that every person who died in Parkland was a person with loved ones, a life and a personality. Our families should take precedence over the shooter who broke them.
Does it really matter if you do this? In fact, yes. The evidence is clear and the examples abundant: those who commit this kind of violence do it partly for notoriety, to become famous. Unfortunately, when we look back on many previous shootings, it is true that most will remember the name of the shooter and not the victims. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There were 17 victims in Parkland who lost their lives and 17 others who were injured. The families of those affected have seen our lives reshaped by the actions of the gunman. We’ll have to see the gunman’s face in the media and watch him appear in a courtroom to face Broward County jurors as they vote on whether he deserves the death penalty. We will be traumatized again when we see his face and hear his name over and over again.
We don’t want to be asked questions about the murderer, even if we constantly are. Do you hate him? Do you forgive him? These are the questions I was asked last week following his guilty plea for the murder of my daughter and 16 other people. The truth is, I will never forgive him, and I have no feelings for him. I try to erase his memory from my mind.
What would have been a more appropriate question to ask myself is: How do we make sure that we only focus on the victims? Maybe turning to New Zealand is an option. Following the 2019 shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “You will never hear me mention her name” of the shooter. She continued: âHe’s a terrorist, he’s a criminal, he’s an extremist, but he will be, when I speak, nameless, and to the others I beg you: say the names of those who have been lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand won’t give him anything, not even his name. “
Tom Teves, the co-founder of the No Notoriety campaign, also warns against paying too much attention to mass shooters – even in the well-meaning service of trying to accommodate their motives – runs the risks creating a âstory that theyâ you’re an anti-heroâ¦ and that’s a false story. For me, the only story that matters is that they are murderers and they left victims behind.
Covering the murder trial was very difficult for me. Hearing his name and seeing his picture always makes matters worse. His name was not used once in this article and yet it did not need to be. It is clear who I am talking about. Focus on the only names that matter.
Jaime Guttenberg, Alex Schacter, Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Gina Montalto, Chris Hixon, Joaquin Oliver, Luke Hoyer, Aaron Feis, Cara Loughran, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang. They are the victims of the Parkland school shooting. You already know who the murderer is. You never have to use your name. These are the names to remember.
Fred Guttenberg is an activist against gun violence