As residents of Newtown, Conn., try to return to normalcy two weeks after a gunman tore through Sandy Hook Elementary School, those who lost their loved ones in the attack are still grappling with the empty seat at the dinner table.
A woman claiming to be Hannah D'Avino, the younger sister of slain Sandy Hook shooting victim Rachel D'Avino, posted a picture Thursday on Reddit. The image shows a spot that would have been occupied by D'Avino. In her stead, the family substituted a sock monkey, with a photo of the teacher on her dinner plate.
"My sister was a victim at the Sandy-hook elementary school. She died protecting the children she worked with," the caption reads. "At our table she always sat in the same spot. This was her spot this year for Christmas dinner."
While the Christmas dinner post became hugely popular on Reddit, some users quickly became suspicious of the poster's identity and intentions, speculating that the sibling of a Sandy Hook victim likely wouldn't pay tribute to her slain sister by posting a photo under a username as insensitive as "pussyrammer."
The thread devolved from condolences to interrogation. Comments by "pussyrammer" have since been deleted from the forum, but the user diffused the accusations of fraud with numerous pieces of evidence, including an image of herself and Rachel D'Avino as well as a letter of condolence from President Barack Obama to the slain teacher's mother, Mary.
The user explained on Reddit:
[Rachel and I] shared an account…Then my boyfriend started being an ass on that username so we created pussyrammer together. We shared a computer so it was easier than logging in and out to separate accounts.
I’m sorry if this offends anyone I’m just trying to share something with a community that both of us were a part of. We had created this account together so I did not want to make a new account.
D'Avino was a newly hired teacher's aide and behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook when she was gunned down, along with five other educators and 20 children, at the elementary school Dec. 14. She reportedly died shielding students from bullets. Her heroic actions and those of other teachers likely saved the lives of many more at the school that day.
D'Avino's boyfriend had planned to propose to her on Christmas Eve; the teacher was buried wearing the engagement ring she would have received.
D'Avino had a talent for connecting with students with autism, another sister, Sarah D'Avino, told the Associated Press. She relayed the story of a student who didn't speak or make eye contact when Rachel first started working with her.
"This girl came to Rachel's wake and actually looked at my sister, me and my mom in the eye, said how much Rachel meant to her and that she was sorry," Sarah D'Avino told the AP. "Rachel made her way into the girl's world and helped bring her out."