ACM Awards: Remembering the “851”

Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Little Big Town and More Wear Gold 851 Pins to Honor Route 91 Victims

The gold pin was worn on the lapel or top of nearly each nominee and attendee at Sunday’s (April 15) 53rd Annual ACM Awards. What it symbolizes is so much more than just a number.

If you looked closely at Jason Aldean’s coat lapel last night, you probably saw it gleaming in the light: a simple, gold pin that read “851.”

Michael Loccisano/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM

But the message is so much more than just a number because that number represents lives, ones that are very precious, especially to Aldean and the whole country community.

The “851” represents the lives injured or tragically taken during the horrific shooting at October’s Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Vegas strip when a gunman opened fire from inside a suite at the Mandalay Bay on concertgoers below during Aldean’s set.

For many artists, last night’s ACM Awards marked the first time they’d been in Vegas since the mass shooting occurred. As much as everyone was ready to celebrate, they were also intent on honoring the survivors and sending a powerful message to the world: that the “851” are always on their minds and forever in their hearts; especially on an evening such as Sunday night.

We are thankful to get to be a part of country music. We are thankful we get to live in a country where our voices can be heard. We are hopeful that together we can create a better world for our children. To the many still living with injuries and trauma from that night in Las Vegas, we want to do everything we can to continue to support you-and today we honor you by wearing the number 851. To the fans, road families and family members of those who lost someone-we wear this number today-58-to let you know one thing: we have not forgotten you. We have not forgotten your names. Carrie, Nicol, Steve, Andrea, Denise, Sandy, Chris, so many lost, and so many loved ones still mourning. You are with us not only tonight in Las Vegas as we come together, but every single night in every single town. We love you all, Thomas Rhett and Lauren #fansfirst #vegasstrong

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Thomas Rhett proudly wore his pin and posted on his Instagram account, “To the fans, road families and family members of those who lost someone — we wear this number today — 58 — to let you know one thing: we have not forgotten you. We have not forgotten your names. Carrie, Nicol, Steve, Andrea, Denise, Sandy, Chris, so many lost and so many loved ones still mourning. You are with us not only tonight in Las Vegas as we come together, but every single night in every single town. We love you all, Thomas Rhett and Lauren.”

Michael Loccisano/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM

Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild wore hers as well, and posted a powerful message encouraging meaningful conversation and a “revolution of hearts and minds.”

Jason Kempin/ACMA2018/Getty Images for ACM

“We need a revolution of hearts and minds to see change,” she wrote in a heartfelt post. “Our children need us. We owe those loyal fans that came to a festival in Las Vegas to listen to their favorite music but instead lived through and died over a senseless act … It’s for them I have hope in my heart that it can happen.”

Tonight I’m gonna wear these pins for the 851 injured, the 58 lost and the 1 life we can save in the future if we’re willing to start a conversation about things that need to be done for our children, our families and our fans. It is with absolute respect for our fans, their personal beliefs and their own stories that I don’t claim to have the answers or an agenda. I just know we must discuss ways to protect our freedoms and rights but also our sons and daughters. Is anything more important than them? We need a revolution of hearts and minds to see change. Our children need us. We owe those loyal fans that came to a festival in Las Vegas to listen to their favorite music but instead lived through and died over a senseless act. Many still healing from injuries, many still hurting over things they witnessed. It’s for them that I have hope in my heart that it can happen. We’ve prayed for the survivors, shed tears for the ones we lost but we can do more and we can do better. We can figure this out together. I know we can. Let’s put our fear and pride down and talk about how to protect this beautiful country and beautiful people we love so much. Maybe if we start the conversation we can save a life, and wouldn’t it be worth it? With much love and admiration. Karen #851581 #startaconversation #savealife #vegasstrong #fansfirst

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Brothers Osborne’s John and TJ Osborne also proudly wore the pins, and John even made a special point to acknowledge it on Instagram as well.

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The country community will never stop mourning, but will also never stop carrying the memory of these fans with them forever. The fans will always come first, and country music will forever be #vegasstrong.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.