The country music world is reeling today after a shooter carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at a country music festival on Sunday night. Country singer Jason Aldean was the headliner of the festival, and he was also the one playing when the shots rang out. He has now released a heartfelt tribute to the victims of the shooting, also announcing that he, his band, and his entire crew are safe. "Tonight has been beyond horrific," he wrote on Instagram. "It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night."
Aldean was the headliner of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, which sold out its passes this year. Thousands were in attendance at Aldean's much-awaited concert, which was the last one of the entire festival. Aldean regularly performs in benefit concerts, including an annual "Concert for the Cure" to benefit the breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen and an upcoming concert in November to benefit victims of the recent hurricanes, so it would be no surprise if this tragic event prompted him to add another. "I still dont [sic] know what to say," Aldean wrote in his Instagram post — a sentiment that everyone can probably understand at this point in time.
As of right now, reports say that at least 58 people lost their lives and over 500 people were injured, making this the deadliest mass shooting in American history. It likely brings to mind the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, U.K. in May, another horrific attack that occurred at a time when the victims were enjoying a joyous concert atmosphere. Aldean's response is even reminiscent to Grande's; the pop singer, similar to Aldean, said "I don't have words" in a heartbroken tweet.
While the attack in Manchester occurred when concertgoers were streaming out of the arena, this attack happened when Aldean was in the middle of a song. He evidently didn't realize that he was hearing gunfire at first, and only ran offstage after the first round of shooting was already done. His haste to get to shelter might have saved some lives, as the video footage from out in the crowd shows that his fans also didn't realize what was going on at first. Of the approximately 22,000 people who were in attendance at the concert, it is now being reported that over 50 lost their lives and over 400 were taken to hospitals with injuries of varying severity.
Several of the other performers from the festival weighed in with their thoughts and experiences. "The world is sick," wrote singer Kane Brown, who had performed earlier in the day. Jake Owen, another singer who had already finished his performance and was up on stage with Aldean when the shooting began, spoke to CNN about what he had witnessed. “I feel so bad for these people. We’re so lucky that none of us were in the line of fire,” he said. Because of the way the huge crowd was assembled there, Owen said, it was "like shooting fish in a barrel from where [the shooter] was."
Aldean has so far remained quiet besides his Instagram post, which is understandable given the situation. His own life was at risk, and he now has to witness as the death toll climbs higher and higher amongst the huge group of people who had come out to see his music. His name, like Ariana Grande's, will now forever be tied with a tragedy of the greatest scale. The victims and their loved ones deserve all of the sympathy in the world — but so does Aldean, and so do all of the other survivors.