Sunday was a tough day to preach for the Rev. Tom Walsh.
Heck, it was a tough day - period.
It was the day of the yearly Christmas meal at the Crossroads Community Church, traditionally a festive family occasion, but he also knew he had to sermonize about grieving families and tragedy just a short drive out on Interstate-84.
Then, he had to share his thoughts with the rest of Vernon at a evening vigil to remember those who lost their lives on Friday in the Newtown school shootings.
After his day was done, he paraphrased his message.
"A crater opened to hell," he said, "and evil came out."
Walsh is supposed to be used to this stuff, considering he is the Fire Department's chaplain. But the events of Friday moved him, he said. A somber Mayor George Apel was right there with him as he opened the vigil by proclaiming that the nearly 550 souls who gathered in Central Park across from Town Hall in a chilly rain showed that no one mourns alone.
And just after saying that, Apel asked those in the crowd to turn to someone they did not come with and offer a greeting.
Apel was joined by Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway, officials from local government, first-responders, and townsfolk from all walks of life. Some brought candles, some flashlights, some just used their mobile phones for effect.
Some just brought themselves to offer support to Newtown.
The mayor concluded his remarks with a simple, "Go in Peace," but no one heeded the call and stayed around for a good 30 minutes afterward. As Town Council member Thomas DiDio put it, "We are speechless … but we just don't want to leave."
One family did not make the vigil in time, but stayed around for a few minutes anyway after seeing that others had stayed.
Before he left, Walsh urged togetherness in town.
"This stuff has to stop," he said. "We're talking about kids tonight."