Seventeen people were killed during Wednesday's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida
It was around dismissal time on a routine school day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the horror began.
A 19-year-old gunman walked onto the campus of the school in Parkland, Florida, armed with what police say was a military-style semi-automatic rifle and countless magazines, and killed at least 17 people.
It was the latest mass shooting in the United States, and shows that the gun violence epidemic can strike anywhere: Last year, Parkland, a Fort Lauderdale suburb, was named the safest city in Florida by The National Council for Home Safety and Security, a trade association.
The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, 19, is in custody and is being held without bond. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, and has not yet entered a plea. He is a former student of the school who got expelled for disciplinary reasons, authorities have said.
Here are names, photos and tributes to those killed in a horrific mass shooting.
Luke Hoyer, 15
15-year-old Luke Hoyer will be remembered as a “happy-go-lucky” teenager who loved basketball and most of all, his two older siblings and parents, his aunt tells PEOPLE.
“He was really laid back,” aunt Joan Cox, who saw him over Christmas in South Carolina, says. “He didn’t get upset. He was always smiling, was so sweet and such a good boy.”
His mother, Gena Hoyer, is in disbelief that the last time she’d ever see her son was when she dropped off him at school on Wednesday, according to Cox.
“We’re all just devastated,” says Cox. “We loved him so much.”
Aaron Feis, 37
Aaron Feis, a well-liked assistant football coach and campus security monitor was killed protecting students.
“He would do it again in a heartbeat,” says his brother, Raymond Feis. His sister, Johanna Feis, adds, “Everything he did that day was in character for him.”
Says his longtime friend, Dan Maurer:“He dealt with hundreds of kids every single year. I never heard a mean thing come out of his mouth. Big guy, big heart – and his heart was so much bigger.”
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
In a post to Facebook, Alyssa Alhadeff’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, confirmed her daughter “was killed today by a horrific act of violence.”
The grieving mother remembered Alyssa as “a talented soccer player” who was “so smart” and had “an amazing personality.”
She added the teen was an “incredible creative writer and all she had to offer the world was love. She believed in people for being so honest.”
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Jaime Guttenberg’s father took to Facebook to write about the devastation that has hit their family after finding out their daughter was murdered.
“My heart is broken,” Fred Guttenberg wrote. “Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school.”
Their son, Jesse, who also attends the school, survived the shooting with no injuries.
“I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family get’s through this,” Fred Guttenberg added. “We appreciate all of the calls and the messages and we apologize for not reacting to everyone individually.”
Martin Duque, 14
Like so many others, Martin Duque’s family spent the hours after the shooting frantically searching for their relative.
“If you hear anything about him, just please let me know,” Martin’s older brother, Miguel Duque, pleaded with friends on a video uploaded to Instagram last night. “I would really appreciate that.”
At around 4 a.m., Miguel shared news of his little brother’s death.
“Sadly, he’s not with us anymore. He’s in a better place. He’s with the Lord,” Miguel says in another video.
Martin was a freshman at the school. He’s described as being funny and outgoing by his family on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for funeral expenses.
“He was sweet and caring and loved by all his family,” Miguel writes on the GoFundMe page. “Most of all he was my baby brother.”
Chris Hixon, 49
Chris Hixon, 49, was also confirmed as killed in Wednesday’s mass shooting in Florida. Hixon worked as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s athletic director and was an award-winning coach.
In tributes online, friends say he was a father and veteran who was deployed to Iraq in 2007. Police say Hixon was protecting several students when he was fatally shot.
Scott Beigel, 35
Scott Beigel, originally from Long Island, also died in Wednesday’s senseless shooting. The 35-year-old is being hailed as a hero; Stoneman Douglas students have said in interviews he provided refuge to numerous students during the violence.
The geography teacher was shot and killed locking his classroom’s door after briefly opening it to allow fleeing students in so they could hide. One student wrote on Twitter: “You are a king and heaven got a good one.”
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Nicholas Dworet was a senior and an exceptional swimmer who had recently earned an academic scholarship to attend the University of Indianapolis in the fall, according to an article in the Indy Star.
Dworet joined the TS Aquatics team 18 months ago and was determined to be excellent, said his coach Andre Bailey.
“This is a kid who went from the middle of the pack last year to being just lights out,” Bailey said. “Everybody loved him.”
Bailey said Dworet trained hard and focused on his schoolwork. He added that Dworet planned to study business.
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Joaquin Oliver was a senior whose personality was larger than life, says family friend David Daboin.
“Everybody loved him,” he tells PEOPLE about Oliver, who he has known since he was about a year old. “He would always support people. He’d go to the games and cheer them on. He was a hype man. His personality could not be matched.”
Daboin said he was like a guardian who was always willing to protect him, if he ever needed it.
“He was only one call away,” he said.
Cara Loughran, 14
Hours after the shooting, Cara’s mother, Denise Loughran, reunited with Liam, who survived, but was unable to find Cara, according to the Washington Post.
On Thursday morning, family friends turned to social media to share the sad news that Cara was one of the 17 victims fatally shot.
“RIP Cara, and fly with the angels,” a neighbor of the family wrote on Facebook. “You will be greatly missed, and we will always love you and celebrate your beautiful life.”
Peter Wang, 15
The 15-year-old freshman who was born in Brooklyn, New York, and had two younger siblings was a member of the ROTC program, according to The Sun-Sentinel.
A friend of Wang’s told his cousin, Lin Chen, that he held a door to let students out of the school before him.
“He is so brave. He is the person who is genuinely kind to everyone. He doesn’t care about popularity. He always liked to cheer people up,” Chen told the news outlet. “He is like the big brother everyone wished they had.”
She added: “He is so funny, caring and selfless.”
Gina Montalto, 14
Described by her mother as “smart, loving and caring,” Gina Montalto enjoyed being a member of the prestigious winter guard team for the high school’s award-winning marching band.
The 14-year-old was also a “strong girl who brightened any room she entered,” Jennifer Montaldo said on Facebook Thursday. She wrote the post to let friends and family know that “our beautiful daughter, Gina Rose, was taken from us during the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
“I will forever remember you my sweet angel,” Manuel Miranda, one of Gina’s winter guard instructors, Manuel Miranda, wrote in a post.
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Carmen Schentrup was a 2018 National Merit Scholar semifinalist, according to The Sun-Sentinel.
One friend took to Twitter to mourn her death, writing, “Your familyis forever in my hearts and prayers. I’m so sorry.”
Alaina Petty, 14
Funny and bright, Petty was “so nice to everybody,” says her friend and schoolmate, 14-year-old Lauren Hogg. “She had this hilarious sense of humor.”
Petty was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and participated in the high school’s JROTC program, according to the publication LDS Living. “We are heartbroken by the loss we feel in the tragedy that unfolded yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” her family wrote in a statement shared with LDS Living.
“Alaina was part of hundreds of volunteers that rushed to the most heavily impacted areas of Florida to clean up and help rebuild the lives of those devastated by Hurricane Irma. Her selfless service brought peace and joy to those that had lost everything during the storm.”
“While we will not have the opportunity to watch her grow up and become the amazing woman we know she would become, we are keeping an eternal perspective. We are grateful for the knowledge that Alaina is a part of our eternal family and that we will reunite with her.”
Says Hogg, “She made everyone feel welcome no matter who you were.”
Meadow Pollack, 18
Meadow’s father, Andrew Pollack, told the Palm Beach Post that the 18-year-old had planned to go to Lynn University for college.
Pollack had been missing Wednesday night as her family frantically searched for her, but she was later confirmed dead. Her friend, identified on Facebook as Gii Lovito, posted on the site, “her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels. Rest In Peace my beautiful angel.”
Cousin Jake Maisner told the Sun-Sentinel, “Everyone should know how great she was,” adding, “She was a beautiful girl, inside and out.”
Alex Schachter, 14
Schachter, a freshman, played the trombone in the marching band and “was a sweetheart of a kid,” his father, Max Schacter told the New York Times.
He “just wanted to do well and make his parents happy,” his father said, adding that he loved playing basketball. He has an older brother who also attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and survived the shooting.
Helena Ramsey, 17
Helena Ramsey’s cousin Curtis Page Jr. wrote in a Facebook post that the 17-year-old “was a smart- kind hearted, and thoughtful person.”
“She was deeply loved and loved others even more so. Though she was somewhat reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her.”
Jamie Page, another of Helena’s cousin, wrote on Facebook that she was “a genuine, beautiful, and smart human being who had so much potential and the brightest future.”