(ABC NEWS)- The day Kai Leigh Harriott received her high school diploma from the Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart was an emotional day.
The 18-year-old was inundated by cheers from her classmates on Thursday as she rolled her wheelchair to grab her degree. But she also got to see Boston EMS Superintendent Joseph O’Hare, the man that 15 years ago raced to save her life after she was struck by a stray bullet.
O’Hare remembers the day like it was yesterday.
“We see hundreds and hundreds of patients every day at Boston UMass [University of Boston Massachussetts] and, you know, you always carry some of those calls with you for your entire career,” O’Hare told ABC News affiliate WCVB.
When Harriott was 3 years old, she was playing on the porch of her family’s house in Dorchester, Massachusetts, when a stray bullet hit her in the back, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
At age 5, Harriott courageously took the stand to forgive Anthony Warren, the man who shot her.
“I forgive Anthony Warren. What he has done to me was wrong. But I still forgive him,” Harriott said in court.
Forgiveness is something that Harriott feels strongly about.
“The message of forgiveness I shared when I was younger still holds the same message really. And I just hope that people apply it to their lives cause I still apply it to mine,” she told WCVB.
The teen has fought back from her injury with perseverance and determination. Her proud mother says she has never let her disability define her as a person.
“Kai’s always had the strength, willingness, and determination to succeed,” her mom, Tanya Davis told WCVB.
Now, her life has come to a complete circle as she’s headed to the University of Arizona for veterinarian studies. Both Harriott and her mother were brought to tears at the sight of her special guest.
“To actually see her and talk to her makes me feel really good,” O’Hare said. “I hope it feels the same to her.”