President Obama scrapped a day of campaigning in Florida in the wake of the Colorado shooting, telling a crowd of supporters, "there are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection."
Obama's remarks came less than 12 hours after a gunman stepped into an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and opened fire, killing a dozen people. Obama spoke for about 6 minutes to a Fort Myers, Fla., convention center full of supporters. The site bore an American flag and bunting, but there were no campaign signs, no music and a somber mood.
Obama said he was prepared for a "fun conversation" about politics and "the differences" between himself and Romney, but that "we woke up to news of a tragedy that remind us of all the ways we are united as one American family."
He said "we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings, such violence, such evil is senselessness. It's beyond reason."
But, he added, "We do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved and were loved."
White House officials described Obama's reaction as one of grief, especially as a parent: "I'm sure that many of you are parents here who had the same reaction I did when we heard this news," he said. "My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater as so many of our kids do each day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight. I'm sure you will do the same with your children.
"For those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation," he said.
He led the crowd in a moment of silence, the only sound in the center, a fussing baby.
"Thank you everybody, I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today," he said. "May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come."