Just one hour before the worst mass shooting in US history, the audience at the Route 91 Harvest music festival was singing “God Bless America.”
Moving video from the final night of the three-night country music festival in Las Vegas showed country music duo Big & Rich leading the crowd in a rendition of the song as they honored American service members. Veterans and active-duty service members were also invited to join the Grammy-nominated artists on stage.
Singer Kaya Jones, a vocal supporter of the U.S. military, was a guest of the duo and shared a video of the sing-along that occurred just one hour before suspected gunman Stephen Paddock slaughtered at least 59 people and injured more than 500 others when he opened fire on the concert-goers from a window in his Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel room. Paddock reportedly killed himself before law enforcement could get to him in the 32nd floor room.
— KAYA (@KayaJones) October 3, 2017
John Rich and Jones recounted the emotional moments of unity at the event before tragedy unfolded during Monday’s “Hannity” on Fox News Channel.
Rich explained how he and the band’s Big Kenny continued the tradition of inviting veterans, active-duty service members and first responders to the stage, sharing their names and where they served, before allowing them to personally address the audience.
“There were people there from all over the United States and North America singing “God Bless America” at the top of their lungs,” Rich said. “It’s always a huge thing to see that kind of unity when everyone can sing the words together. Of course, not everyone in the audience agrees with each other, but we all agree that we;re Americans and we sing together.”
Jones recalled the moments during the song as “magical.”
“It was every color, creed, religion. Everyone was coming together. It was unity,” she told host Sean Hannity.
After playing another video clip from the event, where the crowd of over 20,000 held up lighted cellphones as they sang along, Rich admitted it made one want to “bawl.” He condemned commentary that tried to politicize the tragic massacre, noting there are no political boundaries in the shows.
“When people try to politicize this kind of stuff, to me it’s just so disgusting to hear that,” he said, adding that critics should “hold their tongues” at a time of national mourning. “That’s America standing in that crowd. That’s not one party or another party.”
Right before we walked onstage last night. We are grieving for and with all of the fans right now. We love you❤ pic.twitter.com/tOeK0dyIIl
— John Rich (@johnrich) October 3, 2017
Jones echoed his sentiments, adding that this is a time to remember the victims and not an opportunity to spout rhetoric.
“Less guns don’t equal less terrorists,” the former Pussycat Dolls singer said. “”It’s not the time or the place. Honor the dead, respect the dead, pay homage to them today. It’s about them today, it’s not about the shooter. It’s not about politics.”
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