Bill Rutherford wanted to send some love to Newtown, Conn.
So, Salt Lake City's forester, with the blessing of Mayor Ralph Becker, planted 28 eastern redbud trees at the entrance to the Salt Lake City Cemetery as a memorial to the victims of the Dec. 14 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The redbuds represent the 20 young children and six teachers who died there, as well as two adults who were shot and survived.
The young trees, native to Connecticut and historical to Utah, were planted Wednesday each adorned by a photo of a victim. In a small but heartfelt ceremony Thursday, Rutherford explained why he had made the gesture.
"We are doing this because our hearts have been moved we want to send them love from the Wasatch Front," he said. The trees "are symbolic of the enduring love and beauty of 20 precious children and their teachers."
The eastern redbuds, which eventually will grow with arching limbs to form a canopy, line the walkway entrance into the historic cemetery near 4th Avenue and N Street.
"These trees will create a new entrance to this remarkable place," Rutherford said. "As these trees mature, they will reach out together in the same manner the children have, and they will make an indelible entry to this place."
In concert with the occasion, Becker sent a letter to Newtown's First Selectman Patricia Llodra expressing Salt Lake City's condolences and remembrance.
"The attributes of the redbud are well suited to those we honor," the mayor wrote. "Each tree grows to be unique and beautiful no two trees grow exactly alike, but together make an unforgettable legacy."
The tragedy in Newtown has touched all Americans, said Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold in an interview.
"It's personal because it's so tragic and it's something that we all comprehend how tragic it is," he said. "That's why everybody is talking about it, thinking about it, and wanting to do something about it."
The entrance to the Salt Lake City Cemetery is an appropriate place for a memorial to the victims of Sandy Hook, Penfold said.
"This is a shared place," he said. "It's a really great reflective place."
During the dedication, Rutherford said he hopes the trees will reflect the beauty the victims had brought to life.
"Children are the blessing that provides a glimpse of God's remarkable love for us," he said. "Keep them in your prayers and love each other."