The loss of Paul and AJ Petras has hit many in the La Crosse community very hard.
The owner of May’s Photo and his son were shot to death in their shop on Saturday.
Since then, AJ Petras' girlfriend and best friend have found sleep hard to come by. The moment they learned of his death is burned into their memories forever.
When Alycia Weigel started dating Petras, she knew she had found someone very special.
"Oh, he was the best. He was perfect in every way. Best boyfriend I've ever had. He was the one," said Weigel.
For Weigel and Petras, it didn't matter where they were or what they were doing. It just mattered that they were together.
"Every day, he'd say, 'What do you want to do?' I'd say, 'I don't know, what do you want to do?' He'd say, 'I just want to be with you.'"
Petras' best friend Matthew Wesely said he was always taking pictures and talking about how he planned to take up his father's business at May's Photo.
"It was his dream,” said Wesely. “His dad was always there for him, he said. Whenever anyone needed help, his dad was going to be there. ...He loved his dad so much and he just wanted to take up after him.”
But he never got the chance.
Weigel and Wesely said his death still doesn't feel like a reality.
"No, this can't be happening. This has to be a nightmare. Someone please wake me up," said Weigel.
"I didn't know if it was dream or reality. I still don't know to this day,” said Wesely. “I just want to cry all the time. Right now, I can't even cry because I'm dried up. Been crying nonstop. Can't even sleep."
And while there are many moments Weigel clings to, captured in her mind like one of Petras' photographs, there's one memory that stands out the most.
"He was driving me home one morning after I slept at his house,” said Weigel. “And I just looked at him and he said, 'What's on your mind?' I said, 'I melt every time you smile at me.' And he took my hand and he kissed it. I'll never forget that.”
Friends have set up a memorial fund for AJ Petras at GECU. The account number is 13159, and donors can contribute in person or by mail.
News 8 was able to catch up with a few more of Petras' friends today, who shared their memories and thoughts about his loss. If you'd like to hear what they had to say about their friend, you can find it here.
The memorial service for Paul and AJ Petras will be this Friday at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 11 a.m.