Russell Strong, 35, was passionate about protesting and making his voice heard, so he took a handmade poster that said, “No Justice No Peace” to the crowded park demonstration near the state capitol and stood in an area where he could be seen.
“I was in the park maybe a total of 20 minutes,” Strong, who works in the cannabis industry, told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.
When all of a sudden, he felt something explode on his face.
“When I came to, I was being carried by a group of people,” he recalled. “I knew at that moment that I lost my eye. There’s no way you experience that kind of trauma to your eye and your face and think that you’re ever going to see again. There was a part of me that knew right away.”
Strong said a doctor confirmed that fear the following day.
“I’m still coping with that. I’ll be coping with that for a long time. I’m sure,” he said. “I don’t know if I can put into words right now exactly how that felt because there is so much wrapped up in that kind of news.”
Strong, who is also a visual artist, said his life now includes many struggles, including difficulties with spatial recognition and depth perception.
“It’s been unimaginably difficult to lose an eye,” he said. “I’ve lost the ability to complete just simple tasks that we take for granted… I can’t play sports anymore. I can’t catch a ball. I can’t shoot a hoop. I can’t play catch with my niece and nephew anymore…I’ll bump into things. I’ll bump into people that I can’t see on that side.”
Strong said he can’t think of a single aspect of his life that isn’t different or a struggle in some way.
“It’s all an entire new world that I’m having to try to adjust to.”
Strong said he still has questions about the circumstances that caused him to be struck in the eye while he was peacefully protesting.
“I’d hate to think that someone shot me in the face intentionally, but I don’t know,” he said. “Either we’re accepting that they have terrible aim, and it was an accident and they’re not good at using their weapon, or we’re accepting that they are good at their weapon, and they’re aiming at people’s faces.”
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