What It's Like to Lose Your Child to Gun Violence | Opinion

February 14, 2018 seemed like it was going to be an extra special day. It was Valentine's Day, and after the typical chaotic morning getting my two teenagers out the door by 7 am so that they wouldn't be late for school, I was happy we would celebrate when they arrived back home with cards, candy and gifts. Unfortunately, that never happened.

My kids were both in their respective classrooms at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL when the fire alarm went off. It was close to the end of the day, so my son gathered his belongings and made his way outside, hoping he would be able to come straight home after the all clear. Instead, there was chaos. Gun shots were being heard. Kids were frantic. Chaos erupted. My son was told by an educator to run away from the school as far as he could. Imagine kids, with no supervision, climbing and jumping over the school fence and running down the street as fast as they could, while at the same time trying to reach their loved ones. He couldn't reach Jaime.

We got call after call from him, breathlessly panicked that he couldn't find Jaime. She wasn't answering her phone. Nobody could reach her. She had been shot as she was trying to flee the hallway into the stairwell, but she couldn't get out in time. We couldn't get anywhere close to the school. We frantically called her friends to see if they had seen her, we raced to the trauma center at the hospital on the other side of town where the injured were being sent and we drove in circles trying to get around traffic to get to her. She never arrived at the meeting place where kids were reunited with their parents. We didn't learn of her fate for many hours. Then we couldn't see her for several days. We weren't allowed to identify her, touch her or hold her. We didn't know where she was shot or how many times. We didn't know if she suffered. We knew nothing. It was torture.

Now she is spoken of in the past tense. My daughter was fourteen. She was a great student. She was a great friend. She was an amazing sister. And she was the best daughter that anyone could've asked for. Why? Because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time...and that "wrong" place was school, for goodness sake! In the past this would have been known as the right place for a girl of her age to be. This is UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!

I can't say the shock ever wears of. Rather, reality simultaneously sets in. I no longer have my daughter here with me. I will never have my daughter here with me again.

Life has changed dramatically. Within an instant, I lost my best friend. I no longer get to shuffle her around to school activities, dance and her friends' houses. I no longer have a partner to shop with or to get pedicures together with for special occasions. I don't even want to attend any special occasions. I have nobody to watch dance shows with and nobody to do makeup on for dance competitions. I don't ever want to go to a dance competition again. I have no one to obsess about our dogs with and no one to go out for a girls lunch with me.

I lost her because the wrong person was able to buy a weapon of mass destruction!

There are some amazing people fighting daily, including my husband, to fix the loopholes in the gun laws. But for Jaime and the 16 others who were killed that day it's too late. I am disgusted by our government and the fact that many of them fight to remain beholden to the NRA. The gun lobby has no business being in our government. They never ran for office. They weren't chosen by the American people. I am sick and tired of our congressmen and congresswomen not standing up for what is right, for what the majority of people that elected them want, and for the safety of the citizens of the United States of America.

My life is forever changed. My husband's life is forever changed. My son's life is forever changed. It's been nineteen months since Jaime's life was taken away, and it feels like an eternity. We get to watch her friends attend homecoming, football games, dance competitions, and sweet sixteens. We get to see social media posts about them getting their driver's licenses and their first car. They get to take the SAT and apply for college. Next we will see them move out and embark on their journey of independence, start working in the career of their choice, get married to the loves of their lives, and have babies who become beloved grandchildren. We don't get to see Jaime do any of these things. She was robbed of her life and her future. We were robbed of our life with our precious daughter.

I've written several op-eds with the hopes that perhaps it will open other people's eyes and make them understand. Nobody will really know what it feels like to live with the image of your child running down the hallway for that very last time with an AR-15 pointed at her back. She was one of the unlucky ones. There are far too many unlucky ones. When it is your family member that is the unlucky one, it is easy to understand. Now, it is important for everyone to understand.

For now, those of us and the communities that surround us who understand will fight for change. In addition, and most importantly, we will vote those out who care more about the money in their pockets than those who have suffered and the many more who will suffer in the future due to their lack of action.

This pain is unbearable. It doesn't get better. It gets more difficult with each missed milestone. In my family, three kisses means "I love you". Jaime always wanted ten. We gave each other ten kisses every night. In the time that has passed without her thus far, I have missed close to 6,000 kisses from my baby girl.

Jennifer Guttenberg is the mother of Jaime Guttenberg and co-founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.