One of the men who came to the defense of a teenager wearing a hijab on a MAX train Friday won a 2013 poetry competition with a poem condemning prejudices faced by Muslims.
Micah David-Cole Fletcher was injured in the attack after he and two other men approached suspect Jeremy Christian, who was allegedly yelling racial slurs at two young women, one of whom is Muslim.
Christian is suspected of stabbing of all three of them, killing Rick Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and injuring Fletcher. Fletcher, now 21, was a Madison high school student when he won the poetry contest.
When his girlfriend, parents and brother got to the emergency room late Friday, Fletcher said he was doing OK.
"How are you guys?" he asked, according to his girlfriend Miranda Helm. His blood-soaked jeans, T-shirt and black tennis shoes were in the room in an evidence bag.
The 21-year-old was taking the train to his job at a pizza shop from classes at Portland State University. The suspect hit Fletcher once on the left side with the knife. It punctured his neck and was millimeters away from his jugular, Helm said doctors told her and the family.
He required surgery, which lasted about two hours, she said. Surgeons who operated on him had to remove bone fragments from his throat, she said.
"I'm really glad that he's still here," Helm said. "It's kind of a miracle that he survived it."
Fletcher told Helm the story of the attack, she said, but she didn't want to share it with the media without getting his permission first.
Last she saw him, after the surgery, Fletcher was on a hospital bed with a bandage on the left side of his face with an ice pack and a tube in his throat draining excess blood.
Fletcher will probably be hospitalized a few more days, she said. Helm said she is less worried about his physical state than his mental state, she said.
"It's hard to watch two people die right next to you," she said. "Knowing that you were involved in the attack, and that these two people died, and you made it."
At first, Fletcher refused painkillers. He had seen people become addicted, Helm said, and didn't want that to happen to him. But his family's pleas and the growing pain made him change his mind, Helm said.
"'This is the most exquisite pain I have ever felt,'" Fletcher told her.
The young man's family could not be reached.
Last Memorial Day weekend, Fletcher and other poets part of Spit/WRITE, a youth poetry group, were reading poems about social justice on a MAX train. The purpose was to give them the space to call attention to social justice issues, one of his poetry mentors, Renee Mitchell, said.
Fletcher has already established himself as a poet passionate about social injustice. One of his poems in a 2013 poetry slam that he won railed against the prejudices faced by Muslims.
"When two towering trees of wrought iron and glass and cement are brought down to their knees,
We let it leave an ugly footprint on america that hasn't disappeared in 12 years.
As in one third the amount of civilians killed by drones in the middle east per one terrorist caught in the crossfire," Fletcher read from a black book.
This attack will likely become part of Fletcher's message about hate crimes. Helm said he is eager to talk about what happened.
Despite the danger he was in, Helm thinks Fletcher did the right thing. She fears that if he and the other men hadn't done something, the two girls, or somebody else, would have been killed.
Fletcher is a student at Portland State University, university spokesman Chris Broderick said. The university is reaching out to Fletcher's family to offer support.
In a statement, the university said:
"The PSU community is shocked and horrified by Friday's fatal attack on the MAX train and joins our community at large in offering condolences for the two men killed in the attack and in doing all we can to help with Mr. Fletcher's recovery."
Portland poet Maia Abbruzzese said Fletcher was a mentor to her and another 11 poets in 2015. She's come across him numerous times since then at poetry slams. His poems are philosophical and often have a social justice angle, she said.
Because of the themes in his poetry and what she saw of his personality, Abbruzzese said she wasn't surprised he was involved in the incident on the MAX train.
"Just because of who he is as a person," Abbruzzese said. "He deeply cares about other people."
Around 10:15 p.m., Fletcher posted a picture of himself in the hospital on his closed Facebook page, Helm said. In the photo, a red tube goes from his throat down his chest, and a thin red line stretches across part of his neck.
The picture came with a poem.
"I, am alive,
. I spat in the eye of hate and lived.
This is what we must do for one another
We must live for one another
We must fight for one Mother
We must die in the name dfreedome if we have
to. Luckily it's not my turn today."
-- Maxine Bernstein, Allan Brettman and Eder Campuzano contributed to this report.
He is a poet and wrote this from his hospital bed.