New Review for Find the Helpers

Find the Helpers by Fred Guttenberg was given a very thoughtful review by Don for PopCultureGuy.com, read the review here.

When I first saw the title to this book, I knew I had to read it. The phrase “find the helpers” was popularized by the late children’s television host and advocate Fred Rogers, who stated in an interview that in times of crisis, look for the helpers (and he believed there always would be helpers). Fred Rogers, like myself, is a native of western Pennsylvania and even though he passed away nearly two decades ago, he has been celebrated in film and in books frequently over the past few years. Perhaps that is because our country could use his advice and guidance in these troubling times. 

Author Fred Guttenberg, like Fred Rogers, is an advocate. He advocates for changes to our gun laws and made that his life’s mission after his daughter, Jaime, was one of the seventeen students killed at a school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. Before that crippling loss, Guttenberg’s older brother, Michael, passed away from cancer just a few months earlier. Michael was one of the first responders during 9/11 at the World Trade Center. He spent his life helping others and the disease that claimed Michael’s life was a result of his exposure to the toxic environment at the World Trade Center during and after the attacks. 

Roughly the first third of Find the Helpers is about Michael, with the remaining two thirds devoted to Jaime and the work that the author has done to help limit gun violence since her murder. Fred Guttenberg should be rather familiar to those who follow the news. He approached Justice Brett Kavanugh during his confirmation hearings, only to be rebuffed and, later, questioned by authorities. Guttenberg was also removed from the audience of this year’s State of the Union address because of his outburst expressing disdain for the President’s remarks about the Second Amendment and the (over) reaction from his Republican colleagues.

Fred Guttenberg also wants to break the gun lobby and he has witnessed a few changes in recent years towards that goal. His work with lawmakers and other advocates, as well as making speeches and creating the organization Orange Ribbons for Jaime, which supports causes that were important to his daughter, as well as those aimed at establishing common sense gun safety laws, have made a difference. For instance, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling certain weapons and no longer sells weapons to anyone under the age of 21. Walmart followed suit shortly thereafter with their own restrictions. In addition, laws have been changed in a few states regarding gun safety in recent years and those are detailed in the book. The author’s work, along with many others who share the same goal, is slowing making changes to ensure the improvements continue. 

I have often wondered why many lawmakers always go on the defense of guns when there is a shooting, like those in Parkland, or Sandy Hook, or in Las Vegas? I have heard many times that guns are not the problem. OK, for the sake of argument, if guns are not the problem, then what is the problem and what are lawmakers doing to prevent the next tragedy? Nothing. Many offer thoughts and prayers, and then go about their business like nothing has happened. They know what the problem is, but refuse to take action for fear of political ruin. My life has not yet been touched by gun violence, but that can change for me (or anyone) in an instant. Working towards making our country and, particularly, its children safer is worth fighting for and eventually, with the right leadership, we may see a definitive change someday. 

But I digress. This blog entry is about Fred Guttenberg’s new book, Find the Helpers (I am rooting for you Fred!). The author has crafted a heartbreaking and inspirational story that had me in tears on more than one occasion as he recounts Michael and Jaime’s stories. His ability to move forward and stay focused is impressive, but even Guttenberg admits, there are some really tough days. Indeed, grief is touched upon throughout Find the Helpers and everyone deals with grief in different ways. There is no normal way to navigate loss, but it is possible to move forward and make the world a better place. Fred Guttenberg is living proof.


Find The Helpers

What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope

Life changed forever on Valentine’s Day 2018. What was to be a family day celebrating love turned into a nightmare. Thirty-four people were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Jaime Guttenberg, a fourteen-year-old with a huge heart, was the second to last victim. That she and so many of her fellow students were struck down in cold blood galvanized many to action, including Jaime’s father Fred who has become an activist dedicated to passing common sense gun safety legislation.

Fred was already struggling with deep personal loss. Four months earlier his brother Michael died of 9/11 induced pancreatic cancer. He had been exposed to so much dust and chemicals at Ground Zero, the damage caught up with him. Michael battled heroically for nearly five years and then died at age fifty.