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Country music star Jason Aldean was on stage, hearing a mix of music and the stage crew talking in his ear monitors, when a noise erupted.
"So when it first happened, I thought a speaker had blown," he said, recounting his late-night appearance last month at the outdoor Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. "It just sounded like a crackling something."
He looked around, trying to decipher the blare. But then it stopped. "I was like, 'They must have got it fixed,' so I kept doing my thing," he said.
When the commotion started up a second time, Aldean's aggravation quickly morphed into panic: His guitarist and a security guard looked to him and screamed to run.
Aldean's front and center view of the carnage that unfolded when a gunman opened fire on concertgoers — killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history — has haunted him, he told TODAY in his first on-camera interview since the Oct. 1 massacre.
"It was so hectic. I mean, you just, everybody was scrambling. And you just didn't know what was going on," he said. "I've never been in that situation before. You know? And obviously nobody else out there had either. So it was just kinda crazy, pandemonium," he said.
Aldean and his musicians escaped the shooting physically unscathed, but the details that shooter Stephen Paddock fired a barrage of bullets onto people before apparently taking his own life was crushing.
In an emotional tweet two days later, Aldean wrote that the world was becoming a scary place that "I am afraid to raise my children in." He also became introspective, imploring Americans to stop thinking about the issues that divide the country.
"I feel like at the end of the day there's so much focus on, you know, politics and race, and all these other things that you know, at the end of the day, like, we're all in this together," the Nashville artist said.
But Aldean has found solace in his main motivation — music.
"I just hope everybody can start to heal. Some of this stuff you never get over," he said. "But I hope it gets better for everybody as time goes on."
Aldean canceled shows following the shooting, but later resumed his tour. He has raised money for survivors and made an appearance on "Saturday Night Live," where he performed Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" in tribute.