As the nation reels from the latest mass shootings, Ben Kadish is remembering how he almost died in a similar horrifying crime 20 years ago at a Southern California Jewish Community Center.
Bullets fired by a white supremacist inside the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills on Aug. 10, 1999, penetrated his stomach and leg. At just 5 years old, Ben’s life was slipping away.
But thanks to the quick thinking of a Los Angeles Fire Department paramedic — who rushed the young boy to nearby Providence Holy Cross Medical Center instead of waiting for a helicopter to fly him to a trauma center — Ben survived.
“This place saved my life,” the now-25-year-old Ben Kadish said Wednesday as he visited the hospital and met with one of the nurses who treated him that day. “So I just want to thank everyone … for everything you guys have done.”
It was an emotional reunion held days in advance of the 20th anniversary of the shooting — and in the shadow of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that have re-ignited the same debate over gun control that erupted after the Granada Hills gunfire, and after ever mass shooting since.
It’s all eerily reminiscent for Kadish, who still flinches at the sound of emergency sirens.
“Every time I see an ambulance, any time I hear anything, I remember,” he said. “It’s very hard because it doesn’t just affect the person that was injured, I mean, (it affects) everyone else.”
Cathy Carter, a nurse who was on duty the day of the shooting, said she recalls Ben being brought in.
“I just remember he was not even responsive really,” she said. “He was pale, cool … and dying. And we just, saved him.”
Kadish was hospitalized for about six months after the shooting, and he had to learn how walk again. He has tried to use his experience to help others who fall prey to similar circumstances, reaching out last year to offer assistance to victims of the Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks. He said Wednesday he is open to talking to anyone affected by last weekend’s shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“Anyone that would like to talk, I mean, I’m all ears,” he said. “I’d love to be able to offer my support in any way.”
Five people were injured inside the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the shooting carried out by Buford O. Furrow Jr., a white supremacist who had driven to the Southland from Tacoma, Washington, three days earlier. In addition to Kadish, two other children attending summer camp at the center were injured, along with an adult and a teenage camp counselor.
Furrow carried a 9 mm Israeli-designed Uzi submachine gun and a Glock semiautomatic pistol when he turned up at the Jewish community center, where security was light, and sprayed 70 rounds across the lobby.
Wounded in the attack were 68-year-old receptionist Isabelle Shalometh; 16-year-old camp counselor Mindy Finkelstein; and day campers James Sidell, 6; Joshua Stepakoff, 6; and Kadish.
Furrow then carjacked a woman’s Toyota and made his way to Chatsworth, where he fatally shot 39-year-old U.S. Postal Service employee Joseph Santos Ileto, a Chino Hills resident who was filling in on a letter-carrying route that day. Ileto was shot nine times.
Furrow later admitted that he shot Ileto because he was a person of color — Filipino-American — and a federal government employee.
After the shooting, he took an $800 cab ride to Las Vegas, where he surrendered, telling police he had sought to kill Jews as a “wake up call to America.”
Furrow, who had a history of psychiatric problems, eventually pleaded guilty to murder and weapons charges and was given two life sentences plus 100 years without the possibility of parole.
Ten years ago, Furrow sent a letter to the Daily News from prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, expressing “deep remorse” for his crimes and insisting he has renounced his white-supremacist views.
“I now publicly renounce all bias toward anyone based on race, creed, color, sexual orientation, etc. and am a much happier person,” Furrow wrote.
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