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#EmptySeat: the heartbreaking State of the Union hashtag about gun violence

Danielle Vabner (L), Miya Rahamin (C) and Caren Teves (R) hold pictures of loved ones who were killed by gun violence during a news conference on gun safety, on June 17, 2014, in Washington, DC.
Danielle Vabner (L), Miya Rahamin (C) and Caren Teves (R) hold pictures of loved ones who were killed by gun violence during a news conference on gun safety, on June 17, 2014, in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

When the White House announced on Friday that it would leave one seat empty in the first lady’s guest box during President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, to commemorate the lives lost to gun violence, the move was immediately cast as a partisan play.

Some are showing appreciation for the gesture. On Monday, family members of gun violence victims started using the hashtag #EmptySeat on Twitter to note their own losses, acknowledging that the void the president's gesture tries to address rings true for them.

Perhaps the most high-profile of these tweeters is Nelba Márquez-Greene, the mother of 6-year-old Ana, one of 20 children slain in the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.

But she was not the only mother using the hashtag to express ever-present grief. Caren Teves, the mother of Alex, who was one of 12 to die in the shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater the same year, tweeted a photo of an empty seat — the one her son used to occupy at the dinner table.

Teves is also the founder of No Notoriety, a group promoting the idea that a gunman’s name and personal details should not be publicized, to prevent copycat shooters.

Families touched by mass shootings were not the only ones — people who’ve lost loved ones to other kinds of gun violence took advantage of the hashtag, as well.