As the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards took place at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena Wednesday night, the shooting at the country venue Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., exactly one week earlier, weighted heavily on attendees and viewers’ minds. So country legend Garth Brooks started the ceremony on a somber but completely appropriate note, honoring the victims of the tragedy with a moment of silence. "On behalf of our country music community, I want to say that tonight's show is lovingly dedicated to the 12 individuals who we lost far too soon just a week ago tonight at the Borderline in Thousand Oaks," Brooks said. "Tonight, let's celebrate their lives, let the music unite us with love and their enduring memory.”
— Access (@accessonline) November 15, 2018
The screen then faded to black, starkly listing the names of the people who lost their lives at the Borderline -- including 27-year-old Telemachus Orfanos, who had survived the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in October 2017. When the lights lifted in the Bridgestone Arena, so did the mood, as Luke Bryan triumphantly proclaimed, "All right, CMAs, let’s do what we do, and let's be proud of what makes us country tonight!” He then sang “Be Proud to Be Country” with its key line, “We’re all a little different, but we’re all the same.” Later in the evening, when Chris Stapleton accepted the Single of the Year award for "Broken Halos," he said he was "thinking about the people in California right now" and wanted to "dedicate this award to them."