This year's Academy of Country Music Awards marked many country artists' first big return to Las Vegas since the Route 91 Harvest Festival this fall, when a gunman opened fire, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.
In honor of the lives that were lost, the event began with a moving tribute. Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, and Maren Morris gathered onstage and offered heartfelt words.
"Music does so much more than provide an escape from the pain," Morris said. "It inspires us, soothes us, and makes us stronger."
As host Reba McEntire told prior to the ACMs, "It will open the show and it will set the tone for how we feel towards the victims, the families, the fans. It affected our community, our friends. We will definitely pay tribute to the people who were affected by it."
Many country stars on the red—or rather, blue—carpet also wore gold pins denoting three different numbers: 58 (the number of lives lost), 851 (the number of those injured), and 1 (to represent coming together as one).
During rehearsals yesterday, survivors of the shooting were invited to spend time with Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett.
"What happened here in October will bond all of us forever," Aldean, who was performing onstage when the tragedy occurred, explained.
Leading up to the awards show, the Academy and several stars spoke out about the importance of coming together in the same city. Brett Young, Walker McGuire, High Valley, Ashley McBryde, and LANCO (all of whom were at the music festival), among others, shared their thoughts in a video prior to the event.
"I think the reason it's important to bring it back to Vegas and for people to come is because you can't let something like that stop you," Young said.