“The pictures of the children being reunited with their families, all the parents waiting to hear about their children – all those images were identical to what I saw in 1999,” Ben Kaddish, now 19, told Los Angeles’ KABC TV.
The iconic photograph that emerged from Newtown — of children forming human chain while being led off school premises — was very similar to the photo from Aug. 10, 1999, when a white supremacist opened fire on a JCC summer camp after killing Joseph Santos Ileto, a Filipino-American postal worker.
Five victims were injured in the JCC shooting, including Kadish, who was 6 years old at the time, the same age as many of Sandy Hook Elementary’s 20 first grade victims who were killed on Dec. 14, 2012.
In 2001, the shooter, Buford Furrow, Jr., plead guilty and was handed two life sentences plus 110 years in prison without possibility of parole.
Beyond enduring the trauma, a number of the victims in the North Valley JCC shooting have become advocates for gun control legislation. Mindy Finkelstein, a 16-year-old counselor at the time she was shot, and Josh Stepakoff, 5, touched base after the Newtown shooting, and appeared together at a rally in April to mark the 5th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre shooting.
While Finkelstein, 29, embraces her role as an advocate, it doesn’t erase the painful memories.
"You would think I have some wisdom," Finkelstein told the L.A. Times, "but the truth is there are no words that can express the sadness and suffering that we have gone through. There is nothing I can say to the survivors. From my experience, it is not going to get better. Every time there is another shooting, they are going to feel like they did back then."
Below are links to JTA’s coverage of the North Valley JCC shooting: