Ben Kadish was 5 years old when he was nearly killed by a self-professed white supremacist who opened fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills during the summer of 1999.
As the date of the shooting approaches, marking 20 years since the attack, Kadish met Wednesday with a nurse and paramedic who helped save his life. He and the nurse embraced each other and spoke to reporters outside Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, where a trauma surgeon spoke about Kadish's arrival to the hospital on Aug. 10, 1999.
"Ben was a kindergartner when he came to us 20 years ago. No pulse, no blood pressure — a 5-year-old clinging to life," said Dr. Richard More.
Kadish thanked staff at the hospital and touched on the massacres in Dayton and El Paso, saying he plans to reach out to the victims.
"It's hard to process that it keeps happening," he said. "The level of hate and the level of just access to guns is abnormal for a country."
In the El Paso shooting, the gunman has been described by authorities as a white supremacist who vowed to stop a so-called "invasion" of Hispanic people in the U.S.
In the 1999 attack, the shooter was a white supremacist who espoused anti-Semitism. He shot and wounded five people, including other young children, before fatally shooting a postal worker in Chatsworth.
"Ben was shot because he was Jewish," More said. "He was treated here by a Middle Eastern doctor, an Asian doctor and an African American doctor ... We're honored that Ben is sharing a message of unity and hope."
Suffering from a gunshot wound to his groin that struck a femoral artery, Kadish was in danger of dying from large amounts of blood loss, said Cathy Carter, the nurse who reunited with him Wednesday.
She credited retired paramedic Todd Carb with making the crucial decision to have Kadish taken to Providence Holy Cross — despite the hospital not having a pediatric trauma unit.
"Ben was so gravely ill ... he was close to death," Carter said, saying the then-5-year-old would have died on the way to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, a facility that has a pediatric trauma unit but is located further from the shooting scene.
Instead, physicians and nurses at Holy Cross's trauma unit managed to stabilize him, Carter said, and he was later transferred to Children's Hospital L.A.
Life after the shooting has never been the same, Kadish said, as he still struggles with unavoidable reminders.
"It's before and after. That's what it is. I don't even know how to describe it," he said. "Every time you see an ambulance, anytime I hear anything, I remember it."
After a gunman killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in nearby Thousand Oaks late last year, Kadish reached out to the survivors to offer support.
"Not everyone wants to listen to uncomfortable situations like that, and that's the hardest part," he said.
Carter said she remembers treating Kadish "like it was yesterday" and said it was rewarding to see a patient she helped save several years earlier, something she wishes she could do more often.
"We don't get to see what happens ... we never get to see them again," she said. "It's such a pleasure."
She gave a hug to each of Kadish's parents, who watched as he spoke outside the hospital where he nearly died two decades earlier.
"How could anybody ... bring themselves to that level to spray bullets at children or even adults — anybody, innocent people who don't deserve this," asked his father, Chuck Kadish.