A local author and contributor to BikePortland was caught in the crossfire of suspected gang violence at a street fair last Saturday and sustained a very serious eye injury.
Jessie Kwak, author of several science fiction books including a piece in Bikes in Space (Microcosm Publishing, 2018), and a freelancer who wrote a profile of Showers Pass for us back in December, was leaving the Mississippi Street Fair in north Portland when the incident occurred. Kwak had just loaded up her car with books from a full day of tabling at the fair and was in her car when gunshots rang out as she and a friend approached the intersection of North Kirby and Failing just after 8:00 pm. A bullet entered the vehicle Kwak was in, and fragments from the shattered glass and bullet entered her left eye.
In a video posted to her Instagram account Wednesday night, Kwak said she’s feeling “great” physically and “surprisingly good” mentally, but added that, “It’s unlikely that I will ever see fully out of this eye again.” Kwak is awaiting another surgery to repair her eye later today.
According to Kwak’s partner, the alleged gang members were in a car and shot at someone on the street nearby. They assume the bullet ricocheted off the pavement. Another person who was stabbed in this incident, and who police suspect was connected to the shooters, has not been found.
Since Kwak won’t be able to write during her recovery, she has set up a GoFundMe to support her in the coming months.
“I have been watching as gun violence has been increasing in our country, and in retrospect, I know that I am very very lucky. Many families don’t get a second chance to hug their loved ones tight,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I want to take this opportunity to show you the real person behind the statistic, and that this was not a freak accident, but the result of a systemic issue we are facing here in the United States.”
Kwak also injected a bit of humor into this very serious chapter of her life. “I’m also looking forward to being a pirate writer. I’ve already ordered some eye patches.” When I asked if she said pirate “writer” or “rider” she replied, “Little bit of both.”