Eight members of Reba McEntire‘s band were killed in a plane crash after leaving her concert in San Diego on March 16, 1991. Those who lost their lives were her fiddle player Chris Austin, band leader Kirk Cappello, keyboardist Joey Cigainero, backup singer Paula Kaye Evans, tour manager Jim Hammon, bassist Terry Jackson, drummer Anthony Saputo, and guitarist Michael Thomas, as well as the two pilots.
“By far this is my darkest hour, the most awful thing that ever happened in my life,” McEntire told PEOPLE two days after the crash. “When you have eight people that you absolutely love and their lives are just wiped out – it’s devastating.”
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Now, over 31 years later, McEntire recently opened up to PEOPLE once more about the immense grief she felt after losing her friends.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue,” McEntire admitted. “But it showed me how precious life is, and by the grace of God and my faith, I realized that they went on to a better place.”
McEntire says she has “never blamed God” for the crash that claimed her band members’ lives. But she does “have questions when [she] get[s] up there.”
The crash taught McEntire a valuable lesson. “From that I learned that you need to take it one day at a time and be very grateful for the things that you have,” she said. “Tell folks in your life how much you love and appreciate them.”
Later in 1991, McEntire released her album For My Broken Heart and dedicated it to her late band members. The album contained songs that went on to become signature pieces of McEntire’s catalog, such as “Is There Life Out There,” “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” and “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” It also featured its emotional title track, which you can hear below.