ORLANDO, Fla. – During her college years, Cassi Alexandra frequented Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a place that gave her memorable stories.
Now, she's telling a different story about Pulse through the lens of her camera.
"The atmosphere here was really supportive of me when I was trying to figure out who I was and what I liked and who I wanted to be, and I felt a responsibility to try and give that back in some way," Alexandra said.
She created the We Are Family project, which features long-form interviews and photos of some of the people affected by the Pulse shooting. The purpose? Healing the LGBTQ community through storytelling.
Alexandra, a photojournalist, said she initially hesitated on the idea.
"There came a point where I just had to tell myself to throw that idea out and to just embrace the fact that I'm too close to this topic, that it means too much to me," she said.
On June 12, 2016, tragedy hit Pulse nightclub when a gunman opened fire, killing 49 people. For Alexandra, telling their stories and those of survivors have helped her with her own grieving process.
"It's been really a beautiful healing journey for myself to sit and to be with these people. I think that's what this makes it work, what it is. Because I'm too close, because these people mean that much to me, because this community means that much to me," said Alexandra, who experienced her own loss when her friend and fellow photojournalist, James Foley, was killed during captivity in 2014 at the hands of ISIS.
"Going through my own grief for a friend allowed me to be more empathetic to someone else in a similar experience. I really want to be able to bring this work to peoples' homes in an intimate manner so, you know, they can really understand what these people have been through, what it is to experience like Pulse," Alexandra said.
Currently, the We Are Family project can been seen online at wearefamily.cassialexandra.com.
Alexandra is fundraising for it to be published as a book and also wants to do a traveling exhibit. For more information on how you can help, visit the project's Kickstarter page.