He said no amount of bullets can take away his memories of those fans from the festival. "That's their seats", said Church, his voice filled with emotion.
Church said the trauma of that night's performance led to him writing a new song. "We are country music strong", she added, seguing into the anthem, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken". "So I wrote a song", he said.
It was then Church debuted a song he wrote in the honor of the victims called "Why Not Me". "The reason I'm here, the reason why I'm here tonight is because of Heather Melton, her husband Sonny who died and every person who was there". Obviously this senseless tragedy weighed heavily on the North Carolina native as he took to the Grand Ole Opry stage on Wednesday night. I was the headliner. I've seen this crowd all year.
He reminisced on the lively Harvest Festival crowd, with fans holding up boots when he played "These Boots", American flags during "How 'Bout You", and records during "Record Year". I watched them put an American scarf around my neck during "Springsteen". "I've seen this crowd all year, they're mine". They held boots up when I played "These Boots". I was so moved by it, mainly because I looked at 'em and went "This is my crowd".
Even though they're busy filming the next season of CMT's Nashville, Charles Esten and Clare Bowen came to the stage to sing "Sanctuary". It was a high stage, so I actually jumped out on the ground. It's been a heckuva year, a helluva year, actually. "48 hours later, those places where I stood was carnage". Those were my people.
"Tonight we are standing on the circle that can not be broken", Opry host Jeannie Seely said, referring to the historic piece of wood transplanted from the Opry's longtime home at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. And she had on our "Church Choir" tour shirt. And he said, "What brought you to Vegas?" The couple had gone to the festival specifically to see Church, Sonny's favorite artist. "She said we have tickets for the Grand Ole Opry tomorrow night".
Church pointed out two empty seats in Section 3, Row F.
And I'm gonna tell you something.
"The reason I'm here tonight is because of Heather (Melton)". Sonny grabbed his wife as soon as he heard the gunshots and she said she felt him get shot in the back. "Because let me tell you something, I saw that crowd". I shook everybody's hand.