Beacon Falls resident honors those slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Frank Huelsman of the Southbury post office has created a heart-shaped bush in front of the Main Street building in memory of those who died in the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. Steve Bigham Republican-American

By Steve Bigham Republican-American

SOUTHBURY — Nine years ago, U.S. Postal Service worker Frank Huelsman used a pair of hedge clippers to carve a heart out of a bush at the post office in neighboring Newtown. He did it in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

This year, Huelsman has done the same in Southbury.

Huelsman, who is in charge of building maintenance, worked in Newtown from 2006-18 and later transferred to the Southbury office.

“I did it in Newtown shortly after the tragedy,” the Beacon Falls resident recalled. “I wanted to keep them in our minds season after season. I am in Southbury now and one day I saw a ‘Newtown Strong” bumper sticker while I was out trimming the bushes and I decided to do the same here. It’s only five miles away.”

This new, heart-shaped bush in front of the Southbury post office matches the one at the Newtown post office that was created in the weeks after the tragedy Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Contributed

Tuesday marks the ninth anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook that took the lives of 26 people, including 20 first-graders.

The heart-shaped burning bush in Southbury has garnered attention on social media, with people marveling at its beauty, particularly this fall when its bright-red color went perfectly with its meticulously trimmed heart shape. Many said they were moved when they heard the back story on how it came to be in Southbury.

Huelsman recounted that tragic morning and how he first became aware of what was going on from a Newtown mail carrier, who returned to the post office distraught over the scene she had watched play out moments before. Huelsman said the woman was approaching the school with a mail delivery and was turned back by a sea of police. He said it was clear she knew what had happened.

In the days and months that followed, Huelsman said the Newtown post office was inundated with an unprecedented amount of letters and gift packages from all over the world.