Country artists united while staying apart on Wednesday (June 3) for the CMT Celebrates Our Heroes event honoring the front line workers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two-hour show featured performances by the likes of Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Miranda Lambert, along with special appearances by Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton and more who paid tribute to those working on the front line in such vital professions as healthcare, education and infrastructure, among others.
In addition to the inspiring songs, artists and heroes alike offered meaningful words in support of these essential workers. Here are five moving moments from CMT Celebrates Our Heroes.
Carrie Underwood honors teachers and educators
The powerhouse songstress had the important role of introducing the category of education during the show. Underwood shared that she has a “special place in my heart” for the profession, as both of her sisters are teachers and her mother is a retired teacher. “I want to give credit to a group of people who are often underappreciated during the best of times – teachers and educators,” she begins. “Now more than ever, we recognize what an important and difficult job they have. Like all of us, teachers around the country had to adapt to this pandemic with very little warning. Imagine, a job that’s all about planning and preparation suddenly became about adapting on the fly and coming up with new and creative solutions to keep our children’s education on track from a distance. There was no playbook for this; there was no lesson plan for teaching kids entirely through a computer. Here are some shining examples of the kinds of education heroes in our communities across this country,” she concluded, followed by a series of clips of dedicated educators, including an elementary school arts teacher who leads her students every morning with a mantra in sign language: “I am kind, I am creative, I am smart, I am growing, I am an artist.”
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"And if the whole wide world stops singing And all the stars go dark I'll keep a light on in my soul Keep a bluebird in my heart" – @mirandalambert #CMTCelebratesOurHeroes Missed last night's show honoring frontline workers? You can catch an encore presentation tonight at 12am/11pm CT.
Sean Penn recognizes healthcare workers
Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn also lent his voice to the country music special by paying tribute to the valiant healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients. Penn compared the situation to that of the film The Hurt Locker, citing medical workers as soldiers who must disarm the bombs of COVID-19 in order to save lives. “But we don’t need to go to the movies to see that now. We can just look down the street to our nearest hospital where front line hospital workers are doing the same with multiple bombs of virus every day and night, largely without the benefit of PPE or enough,” he remarked in a passionate address. “So we have to thank, love and honor all of them.”
Brandi Carlile honors the parents
Ever the poetic speaker, Carlile used her performance slot to turn the attention to a different kind of essential worker – parents. Accompanied by her “brothers,” longtime collaborators Phil and Tim Hanseroth, Carlile expressed the sorrow that comes with not being able to see one’s parents during the time of quarantine, citing them as personal “heroes.” “When CMT reached out to us and asked us to record a song for the heroes, after I thought about the healthcare workers and the people that are working out there to keep us safe, I thought about our parents, because even though the three of us are quarantined together and we’ve been living together and seeing each other every day, we haven’t got to see our parents and our parents haven’t gotten to see us or our kids. And so we wanted to record a song for our heroes – our folks – and send this one out to anybody who’s not getting to see their parents right now or their grandbabies,” she expressed, leading into a beautiful performance of her song, “Most of All.”
A New Jersey police officer demonstrates resilience
In between artist performances and testimonies, the heroes themselves had the chance to share their own powerful stories of working on the front line. One of these heroes is police officer Rick Vanderclock in Wayne, N.J. He and his 71-year-old father Rick, a retired state trooper, both contracted coronavirus in March. Vanderclock had to be sequestered from his family for two weeks and his father was placed on a ventilator and passed away 21 days later. “This pandemic and the loss of my grandfather has taught me a lot of perspective. We know that we can get through this if we all remember that we are not alone,” professes Vanderclock’s daughter Julia Vanderclock, calling her grandfather “invincible.” After recovering from the virus, Vanderclock returned to his post, working alongside the department to serve the community and host social distance celebrations for families and children. “It was a little bit of hope right now in this really dark time with this pandemic,” he reflects.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center lead with compassion
CMT Celebrates Our Heroes brought viewers directly into VUMC in Nashville where staff ranging from doctors and nurses to EVS technicians are working tirelessly to keep patients safe. “We’re learning so much right now about what it means to work together as a team, to keep showing up in ways that matter because we’re reminded that people are in need of hope maybe now more than ever before,” explains Pediatric Staff Chaplain Amanda Borchik as images of first responders and a sign that reads “you are so brave” flash across the screen. “Even in the midst of this suffering, we believe so deeply in providing compassionate care for every patient and family that we meet in his hospital.” Powerful shots of healthcare workers exiting the hospital, greeted by a crowd of cheering firemen, and a photo of a healthcare worker holding a sign that reads “thank you, we love you back” all reinforced the sense of hope these heroes provide.