Boston teen shot, paralyzed as toddler surprised by hero EMT at HS graduation

NEWTON, MASS. (WHDH) - A girl who was left permanently paralyzed when she was struck by a stray bullet in Dorchester in 2003 was reunited at her high school graduation with the EMT who rushed her to safety.

Kai Leigh Harriot, 18, graduated Thursday from the Newton Day School, 15 years after she was left paralyzed from the chest down.

She was playing on her family’s porch when she was shot. The bullet struck Harriot in the back, shattering her spine.

Joe O’Hare, who is now the Superintendent of EMS Field Operations in Boston, surprised Harriot at her graduation. He was the one who carried her to an ambulance in the moments following the tragic shooting.

7’s Kimberly Bookman introduced O’Hare to Harriot in what was an emotional reunion. The two could be seen wiping away tears.

“It’s really encouraging to see her grow into the young woman that she’s become,” O’Hare said.

After watching a 7News interview with Harriot on Wednesday, O’Hare said he wanted to be present for the special day.

“We see hundreds and hundreds of patients every day with Boston EMS,” he said. “You always carry some of those calls with you over your entire career. To actually see her and talk to her makes me feel really good.”

Smiling from ear-to-ear, Harriot proudly held up her diploma as O’Hare looked on.

“I think one of the greatest parts of this day is meeting the man that carried my daughter out,” Harriot’s mother Tanya David said. “It’s a pleasure. It’s a privilege.”

The youngster inspired the community when she courageously spoke at her shooter’s sentencing and forgave him.

Harriot said she hopes people apply her message of forgiveness in their own lives.

Harriot is heading to the University of Arizona on a full scholarship in the fall. She plans to study veterinary science and the Mandarin language.

“I’m definitely not just the 3-year-old who got shot,” Harriot said. “I’m my own woman now. I’m ready to take on the world and see what I can do with it.”

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