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Eric Church Shares New Song for Vegas Victims in Tearful Return to the Stage [Watch]

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Eric Church returned to the stage on Wednesday night (Oct. 4) for the first time since he headlined one of the nights of the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, tearfully paying tribute to the fans who died in a mass shooting with a new song.

Church headlined the first night of the three-day festival on Friday night (Sept. 29), and during Jason Aldean‘s headlining set during the closing night of the festival on Sunday (Oct. 1), a gunman opened fire into the crowd from his hotel room above, killing at least 58 people and wounding nearly 500 more.

Church performed on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on Wednesday night, and he spent part of his time onstage recalling the fans at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

“I was so moved by it, mainly because I looked at ’em and went, ‘This is my crowd. I’ve seen this crowd all year. They’re mine,” he says in the video above. “They came from all over the country.'”

So moved, in fact, that he decided to jump into the crowd toward the end of his set, where he shook hands with audience members, thanking them for “a hell of a year.”

Jake Owen, Chris Young Describe the Shooting

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“48 hours later, those places that I stood, was carnage,” Church recalls, pausing to choke back tears. “And those were my people. My fans.”

One of the fans who died in the mass shooting in Las Vegas was Sonny Melton, a Tennessee native who was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival with his wife Heather. He sacrificed his life to save his wife when the shooting started, just one of a number of heart-wrenchingly brave stories of everyday heroes that have emerged in the aftermath of the terrible events.

Church saw Heather Melton wearing a Church Choir shirt during an interview on CNN, and she told Anderson Cooper that they’d attended the Route 91 festival specifically to see Church, who was one of her husband’s favorite artists. The couple also had tickets to see him on the Opry Wednesday, and Church admits that changed his mind when he wasn’t sure he could go ahead with the performance.

“The reason I’m here, the reason I’m here tonight is because of Heather Melton, her husband Sonny who died, and every person that was there,” Church says, pointing out their empty seats. “Let me tell you something; I saw that crowd, and I saw them with their hands in the air, I saw them with boots in the air, and what I saw in that moment in time was frozen. There’s no amount of bullets that could take that away.”

“Something broke in me on Sunday night when that happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broken in me is with music,” Church says. “So I wrote a song.”

With that, Church launched into a new song titled “Why Not Me” on acoustic guitar, audibly sniffing back tears as he sang, “Why you, and why not me?”

Church went on to perform his song “Those I’ve Loved” before closing with a moving rendition of “Hallelujah.” Watch his electrifying performance and hear his speech by clicking on the video at the top of the story.

These Are the Faces and Stories of the Las Vegas Shooting Victims

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Next: The Latest News from Route 91

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