(FOX 11) - Our KTTV 70 series has been looking back at the biggest moments from the past 70 years in Los Angeles. Due to what happened in Poway this weekend, we wanted to bring you this story now. Two amazing young adults-- who saw first-hand-- what anti-Semitism can do.
Laura Diaz takes us back to 1999 and the North Valley JCC shooting:
I have been working on the KTTV 70 story about the horrific shooting that occurred the morning of August 10, 1999, in the quiet suburban neighborhood of Granada Hills. That was the day a white supremacist opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon on the "North Valley Jewish Community Center."
The assailant pumped 70 shots into the complex. The gunfire injured five people, including three children, a teenage counselor, and an office worker. He unleashed this terror because those who gathered at the center were Jewish.
To this day, I remember the iconic image of the tiny children holding hands, some even smiling, as law enforcement led them to safety and to the waiting arms of their frantic parents. It made me cry then. And it makes me cry now. Over the years, I have interviewed two survivors in particular. Joshua Stepakoff and Mindy Finkelstein.
We have a familiarity and understanding that is acquired over time, and with trust.
Josh was just six years old then and the small figure you see being rushed out on a gurney from the schoolhouse. He was so young, that it's taken him years to fully grasp how close he was to death. And that the man who did this-- hated him because of his religion. Over the years, he's had time to process what occurred to him as small child and it hurts. Today almost 20 years later, he is a passionate advocate for gun control. He is engaged to be married.
Mindy Finkelstein was a teen counselor in 1999. She described her younger self to me as a "carefree teenager" growing up in the San Fernando Valley. And then Buford Furrow attacked the Jewish Community Center. Those bullets shattered her sense of innocence and her sense of safety. Gone in an instant. Today Mindy is a young mom. She recently told me that she worries about the world in which her young daughter will grow up.
And those worries are real-world problems. Hate would strike again. This time, in the quiet community of Poway, near San Diego last Saturday. A 19-year-old gunman would enter the Chabad of Poway Synagogue during a service on the last day of Passover. The gunman opened fire while yelling anti- Semitic slurs, authorities said. A woman is killed, others sustain injuries, including the rabbi.
I spoke to Mindy and Josh after the Poway attack. Both were shaken by the hate crime in Poway, but not surprised. It dredged up their own terror of almost twenty years ago at the JCC.
Both survivors would like to see Congress show the political might to limit these type of assault type weapons. And while they are disgusted by the shooter, Josh told me, "Sadly, things are worse today than they were when I was growing up."