The “America’s Got Talent” judges were moved to a standing ovation for an 18-year-old contestant who survived a Michigan school shooting last November.
On Tuesday’s episode of the competition series, Ava Swiss, an Oxford High School senior, explained to Simon Cowell that her audition song “Remember” by Lauren Daigle was inspired by her harrowing experience.
“I chose this song because back on November 30, my brother and I were a part of the Oxford school shooting,” Swiss explained. “We lost four of our students, and seven others were injured, one of which was a teacher.”
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She would later tell People that she had been close with one of the victims, 17-year-old Justin Shilling. Three other students, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, and Hana St. Juliana, 14, also died in the incident, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, while seven others were wounded.
Asked by Cowell how she is coping in the aftermath of the experience, Swiss explained the path to healing has been difficult.
“It’s been hard,” she admitted. “I remember my brother and I, we were talking to each other, and we said, ‘There’s no way we’re ever stepping foot back in the school.’ But we’ve actually been in person in the school for about two months now, so things are getting better.”
After delivering a powerful performance, Swiss was met with a standing ovation from the audience and all four judges.
“In life, it’s tough to show up, especially after going through incredible trauma,” Howie Mandel, one of the show’s judges, said once things had settled down. “The fact that you can break through that, and shine the way you did today, is so inspirational for every human being.”
Fellow judge Heidi Klum praised the teen for her “incredible,” and Sofía Vergara expressed that she felt as if Swiss wasn’t just singing. She was demonstrating her feelings.
“It gave me goosebumps,” the former “Modern Family” star admitted.
“I think you are gutsy,” Cowell concluded. “For me, this is one of those auditions I’ll never forget. I really have so much respect for you, and on top of that, you’ve got a great voice. You’re really somebody who I’m so happy to have met.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: