Kelsea Ballerini Opens CMT Awards With Tearful Tribute To Nashville Shooting Victims

CMT / Instagram

The CMT Music Awards are usually one of the most fun nights for country music fans.

But, due to recent events, the show could not start without mentioning the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. Three 9-year-old children and three adults were killed by a 28-year-old former student on Monday (March 27). The adults were all employees – substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, janitor Mike Hill, and Head of School Katherine Koonce. The students’ names are Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney.

As the CMT Music Awards kicked off, co-host Kelsea Ballerini stood on a dark stage and looked directly at the camera. Immediately, we knew what was happening – a tribute to the fallen.

She said, “On March 27, 2023, three 9-year-olds — Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs — along with Dr. Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill walked into Covenant School and didn’t walk out. The community of sorrow over this and the 130 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone stretches from coast to coast.”

Ballerini continued, “I wanted to personally stand up here and share this moment, because on August 21 2008, I watched Ryan McDonald, my 15-year-old classmate at Central High School, lose his life to a gun in our cafeteria. Tonight’s broadcast is dedicated to the ever-growing list of families, friends, survivors, witnesses and responders whose lives continue to forever be changed by gun violence. I pray, deeply, that the closeness and the community we feel for the next few hours through of music can soon turn into action — like real action — that moves us forward together to create change for the safety of our kids and our loved ones.”

Ballerini was in fact a student at Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee when the shooting occurred on August 21, 2008. She previously spoke with CBS Mornings about how she watched McDonald take his last breath, and how the shooting has affected her since.

It was a touching tribute that brought tears to our eyes as well. Hats off to Kelsea for being so brave in addressing it. Watch her tribute below.

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