BOW, N.H.—A somber Mitt Romney offered his "deepest condolences" to those affected by Friday's movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and called for the country to "come together" and show fellow Americans "their good heart and love."
"Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy," Romney said, speaking to supporters at a local lumber company where he had originally planned to hold a political rally.
But Romney shelved those plans in the aftermath of the Colorado shooting and instead used the event speak about what he described as a "hateful act."
Staffers removed political signage and did not play music ahead of the candidate's arrival. A local Anglican priest preceded the Republican candidate on stage and offered a prayer for the victims and their friends and families, setting a scene that seemed more like a memorial service than a political event.
Romney, dressed in a suit and tie, spoke against the backdrop of a single American flag and made clear to supporters that Friday was not a day for politics. He said he joined President Barack Obama in offering his "deepest condolences to those whose lives were shattered in a few moments…of evil."
"I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American," Romney said.
He acknowledged the "grief but also helplessness" individuals feel in the aftermath of tragedies like those in Colorado. He urged Americans to "offer comfort to someone near us who is suffering" and "mourn with those who mourn in Colorado."
"This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love each other and how much we care for our great country," Romney said. "There is so much love and goodness and the heart of America."
He said the shooting had robbed Colorado of "youthful voices" and offered a "prayer" that their souls might rest in "peace."
"We know how evil is overcome. We are seeing that greater power today in the goodness and compassion of a wounded community. Grieving and wounded families in Aurora are surrounded with love today--and not just by those with them holding them in their arms," Romney said. "They can also know they are being lifted up in prayer by people in every part of our great nation. Now, and in the hard days to come, may every one of them feel the sympathy of our whole nation and the comfort of a loving God."
Romney said there will be "justice for those responsible," but said that's a "matter for another day."
"Today is a moment to grieve and remember; to reach out and help; to appreciate our blessings in life," Romney said.
The GOP candidate spoke for just four minutes. Instead of shaking hands of supporters near his stage, as he usually does at events, he moved toward the exit and spent several minutes shaking the hands of every supporter in attendance as they exited.