Caitlin Keating
February 15, 2018 02:16 PM

In the early morning hours of Thursday, a Florida family was given news that still feels like a nightmare they can’t wake up from.

Their 15-year-old son, Luke Hoyer, was one of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, his aunt, Joan Cox, confirms to PEOPLE.

Parents Gena and Tom Hoyer were told earlier in the day that two of his friends thought they saw him laying lifeless on the ground at school.

“We were hoping that it wasn’t him,” says Cox. “Parents who hadn’t made a connection [to their child] were told to go to Marriott. So they went there, and around 12:30 in the morning they came in and told them Luke was one of them.”

The news has left the entire family “absolutely devastated,” Cox says.

“It doesn’t feel real,” says Cox, of Simpsonville, South Carolina. “It really doesn’t.”

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Luke, a freshman at the high school who loved basketball and eating McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and macaroni and cheese, will be remembered as a “happy-go-lucky kid” who seldom got upset.

“He was always smiling and very laid back,” says Cox. “He never caused any trouble. He was just a good boy and had a great life.”

With an older brother at college and a sister who had recently moved to Denver for work, he spent a lot of time with his stay-at-home mom.

“It was just the two of them all of the time,” she says “He was momma’s boy and he loved his family so much. They were very close.”

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When Cox spoke to her sister Gena this morning, Gina recounted dropping Luke off at school just hours before he was killed.

“She said, ‘Joan, I took him to school yesterday and I never thought I wouldn’t see him again,'” says Cox, who is heading to Florida today. “He got out of the car and it was like a regular day. She said she can’t imagine life without him.”

Last Christmas, Luke and his family came to the Cox’s home in South Carolina and “had a wonderful time” bowling and spending quality time together as a family.

“Me and my sister talked about Luke and his future,” she says. “He didn’t know what he wanted to do yet. He was just a freshman and was looking forward to high school.”

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