Jason Aldean paid tribute to the victims of the massive shooting at a country music festival during his acceptance speech after being named entertainer of the year at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards.
“It's been a rough year,” Aldean said during the ceremony in Las Vegas, thanking those “that showed us love and support over the last six months.”
Last October a lone gunman killed 58 people at country music's Route 91 Harvest Festival in Sin City, becoming the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Aldean was onstage when the shooting occurred.
“You guys are in our hearts always,” he said. “We love Las Vegas. Vegas strong.”
The country music community, returning to Vegas on Sunday six months after the massive shooting, opened the show in memory of the victims.
Miranda Lambert said the world can be “united through the healing power of music,” while Luke Bryan said “music helps us remember what really matters in life.” At the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Maren Morris said music “makes us stronger” and Thomas Rhett said music gives us “a chance to rejoice.”
Aldean closed the emotional moment, saying in respect to the victims and music fans, “we celebrate the music tonight. America, this is your ACM Awards.”
The ACMs also marked an important night for Chris Stapleton, who missed the show because his wife, Morgane, gave birth to twins. Sunday was also the singer's 40th birthday.
Stapleton, the leading nominee with eight, won male vocalist of the year and album of the year, which he won twice as a singer and producer.
Carrie Underwood made her first television appearance since injuring her face and wrist last year in a fall at her home.
She won vocal event of the year for the dance-infused country song, “The Fighter,” with Keith Urban.
Lambert also made history Sunday: She surpassed Brooks and Dunn as the most decorated act in ACM history with 32 wins. Lambert won her ninth consecutive female vocalist of the year trophy and won twice for song of the year – as the performer and co-writer of “Tin Man.”