One Year After Pulse
Following the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, one young victim tries to heal from her physical scars and the loss of a childhood friend
Photographs by PRESTON GANNAWAY / Text by CHARLOTTE ALTER
Almost exactly a year ago, Kaliesha Andino and her childhood friend Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo went out on the town. Omar had recently moved to Orlando from Nashville and was working as a Starbucks barista as he pursued his dream of becoming a dancer. Andino—who goes by Kali—first met Omar in middle school in Cleveland, Ohio. “He always wanted the people around him to be happy,” she says. “He always said to live life to the fullest.”
A snapchat selfie of Kaliesha Andino (left) with Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo on June 12, 2016. Courtesy of Kaliesha Andino
That night out was June 12, 2016, the same night Omar Mateen entered Pulse nightclub with a handgun and semi-automatic rifle and began firing, killing 49 people and injuring 53 in what became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Kali, who visiting the club for the first time, was shot in her back and her arm. Omar, just 20, became one of the youngest people killed.
“This past year has been the hardest year of my life,” Kali says. After three different surgeries and physical therapy three times a week, she can finally move her fingers and pick up small objects again—she says she has about half the strength she had before the shooting. “The healing process has been hard,” Kali says. “It’s like you are starting all over again.”
Over the course of the last year, Kali met Preston Gannaway, a photographer who has been documenting the stories of queer youth across the country, including those recovering from the Pulse attack. “For a lot of us in the broader LGBT community, it did feel really personal,” says Gannaway of the shooting. “I wanted to tell a story that showed a little bit more of the long-term effects that this was having.”
Despite her difficult recovery, Kali hasn’t lost sight of her plans. “I’m still going to college and one day I want to own my own business,” she says. “What happened to me is not [going to] stop me from becoming somebody in this world.”
But even as she looks forward to her own future, she mourns the dreams that Omar lost. “He wanted to become a dancer and an actor,” she says. “He was only 20. He had a bright future ahead.”
Kaliesha Andino visits the grave of her friend Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo eight months after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Omar was 20 when he was killed in the attack. They had been friends since middle school.
Outside of Pulse nightclub, three months after the shooting.
Unable to do her own hair because of her injuries from the shooting, Kali’s mother Rosa puts her daughter’s hair up in a ponytail. Kali was born in Puerto Rico and had recently moved with her family to Orlando from Cleveland.
Kali in her new Camaro. With part of the One Orlando donations she was able to buy her dream car.
Kali takes a drive on Feb. 12, 2017. She had Omar’s eye tattooed on her arm along with the date of the Pulse shooting in roman numerals. She said, “I’ve got to keep moving for him. Live the second life for him.”
The Orlando Eye lights up in Pride colors on the six-month anniversary of the Pulse shooting.
Kali (right) and her sister Kinnie, play a game at home on Dec. 12, 2016. On the TV is a news report on a bill to loosen restrictions on the open carry of firearms.
Kali sets out her clothes as she prepares to visit Omar’s grave eight months after the Pulse shooting. A few weeks after the shooting, Kali had a panic attack and went to the ER. She was wearing a similar memorial T-shirt with Omar’s photo when a nurse who worked the night of June 12th recognized him and started crying.
Childhood snapshots of Kali and Omar, who had been friends since middle school. Courtesy of Kaliesha Andino
Kali and her girlfriend Adeline, who was visiting from Cleveland, dancing. Kali still finds it difficult to go out at night and has not been out to a club since the shooting.
Kali takes her little sister and friends to a park in Orlando on Feb. 10, 2017.
Kali, exercising her arm that was injured in the Pulse nightclub shooting. She was shot in her arm and back on the dance floor. In the months since, Andino has been doing physical therapy three times a week, to regain use of her right arm.
Kali on her daily workout routine.
Kali Andino visits a park in Orlando on Feb. 10, 2017.
Stones outside Pulse nightclub serve as tiny memorials. Sept. 15, 2016.
Charlotte Alter is a writer covering society and politics at TIME
Paul Moakley is the Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise at TIME