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Just 48 hours before the devastating shooting that killed 58 and injured more than 500 people in Las Vegas, Eric Church jumped from the stage into the crowd at the country music festival, shaking hands and thanking fans for coming.
“Forty-eight hours later, those places that I stood was carnage,” said Church, who was a headliner at the festival. “Those were my people. Those were my fans.”
During his performance Wednesday at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the country music singer gave an emotional tribute and dedicated a new song he wrote, “Why Not Me,” to the victims of the shooting.
“I didn’t want to be here tonight,” Church said, choking back tears. “I didn’t want to play guitar, and I didn’t want to walk on stage. But last night somebody sent me a video of Heather Melton.”
Melton appeared on CNN earlier this week to talk about her husband Sonny, who died in the shooting. During the interview, Melton wore one of Church’s tour t-shirts and said she and her husband went to Las Vegas to see Church. She also said they had planned to see Church at the Grand Ole Opry.
“If you’re there, if you’re in Row F, there’s some empty seats. That’s their seats,” Church said. “The reason I’m here tonight is because of Heather Melton, her husband Sunny, who died, and every person that was there.”
Church recalled seeing his fans in Las Vegas, holding their hands in the air and raising their cowboy boots during his song “These Boots.”
“What I saw, that moment in time is frozen,” Church said. “There’s no amount of bullets that can take that away.”
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.