BOSTON (CBS) – Kai Leigh Harriott had a very special guest at her high school graduation, one she hasn’t seen since the night 15 years ago that forever changed her life.
In 2003, Harriott was paralyzed when she was hit by a stray bullet at three years old while sitting on the porch of her family’s Dorchester home. One of the people who rushed to help save her life was EMT Joe O’Hare.
On Thursday, Harriott graduated from Newton County Day School. “This is a great day,” said mom Tonya David. “Fifteen years later, she’s 18, and guess what? She did it. We did it. With this great help of this community.”
O’Hare was also in attendance. It was the first time O’Hare and Harriott had seen each other since the night she was shot.
“Over the last 15 years I’ve watched her through the media and watched her story, and I just felt the need to come and see her graduate from high school,” said O’Hare, who still remembers treating a scared Harriott.
“She was incredibly brave. Not crying, not out of control at all. Very calm. Very cooperative, obviously scared. But I did my best to try and calm her and take care of her the best we could.”
During the trial for the man who shot Harriott, she stunned the courtroom when she and her mother said they forgave him.
“She certainly has the right to be angry. But she’s never been that way. She’s taken this event and she’s really made something of it. She’s been an advocate for safety in the schools, and certainly a leader to her class here,” said O’Hare.
Two years ago, Harriott talked to WBZ. “Healing is a continuous process. I think people throughout their lives, they’re always healing. I don’t think healing ever stops,” she said.
O’Hare said he still remembers the night Harriott was shot, and the emotional toll it had on him.
“It always kind of hits home for us that though it’s what we do every day, it makes you go home and appreciate the things that you have,” said O’Hare. “I went home and give my kids a hug that night just as a reminder how important that is.”