The 2018 ACM Awards opened with a tribute to the victims of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Luke BryanMaren Morris and Thomas Rhett came together to offer a moving homage to the 58 fans who died and hundreds more who were injured on Oct. 1, only blocks away from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where the 2018 ACMs are taking place.

It was simple and poignant--nothing can describe the deep, unfathomable loss that took place that day or take away the hurt, and the artists didn't try to. Instead, they acknowledged the pain and pointed viewers to music and its healing power.

It began with the spotlight on Aldean who kicked off the tribute and said, "Tonight we wanted to open the show with something that sums up what it's like for our country music family to be back in Las Vegas for the first time since October 1st. We thought about starting with a song but it's a lot bigger than a single song." He talked about the importance of "the songs that bring us to our feet, make you wanna pull someone close or just live in the moment. Nothing can take that away from us." Next up was Lambert who spoke of us being "On this night, in this community ... we are all united through the healing power of music."

If anyone knows loss, it's Bryan who spoke "for all of us who have experienced tragedy and unexpected loss, music helps us remember what really matters in life." Morris and Rhett ended the opening, saying, "There's always a reason to carry on."

Aldean concluded, "With respect and love to the victims, our friends family and fans, we celebrate the music tonight. America, this is your ACM Awards."

For many artists, the 2018 ACM Awards were their first return to Las Vegas following the Route 91 tragedy. It was an event that many said would be a crucial step toward recovery for the country music community. During rehearsals for the awards show, Jason Aldean and Thomas Rhett visited with some of the survivors of the shooting.

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