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.
Tomorrow we leave an #emptyseat for Ana @WhiteHouse #SOTU #StopGunViolence #SandyHook @MomsDemand @jimmygreene pic.twitter.com/kBFiBse7h8— Nelba Márquez-Greene (@apricotmamiof2) January 11, 2016
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.
Our #EmptySeat. This was my son Alex's place at our family table until his life was taken by #gunviolence. #SOTU pic.twitter.com/9V9dCBIQBd— Caren Teves (@carenteves) January 11, 2016
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.
My son Terrell Bosley age 18 was murdered on church ground in Chicago on 4/4/06. #TERRELLBOSLEY #SOTU #EmptySeat pic.twitter.com/fmlJZx9B8V— Pamela Bosley (@BosleyPamela) January 11, 2016
I'm leaving an #EmptySeat for my mother, Joyce, for every day, Christmas & birthday she missed. I miss her ❤️ #SOTU pic.twitter.com/EfQGRZETh5— KHARY PENEBAKER (@kharyp) January 11, 2016
My grandfather carried and was attacked and shot with his own gun. Guns don't make us safer. Just another #emptyseat— Ashley Spry (@TallerThanSaban) January 11, 2016
Tomorrow the #EmptySeat will be for our grandson Noah gunned down in Sandy Hook in 2012. I miss him every day. #SOTU pic.twitter.com/TDvttWNyjm— mc.farine (@mcfarine) January 11, 2016