Nick Maslow
September 13, 2017 at 08:47 AM EDT

Selena Gomez paid it forward Tuesday night, joining dozens of celebrities on Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief to raise money for victims of storms Harvey and Irma.

Sharing the story of a young man who watched his family drown to death in Texas, the 25-year-old became overwhelmed with emotion, her eyes welling with tears as she filmed the video segment.

“August 27th, seven members of the Saldivar family try to escape the rising floodwaters,” said Gomez, according to Cosmopolitan‘s transcript. “Their van is swept into the bayou. Only Sammy Saldivar manages to survive.”

For Gomez, their story hits close to home. “I come from Grand Prairie, about 250 miles away from the Saldivar’s home,” she explained. “Their story affected all who heard it. And no matter who we are, the differences we have suddenly did not seem to matter. Since that day we have joined together — neighbor helping neighbor, without stopping to think about race, religion or anything else.”

Gomez continued: “Ricardo Saldivar has spoken out about his brother’s escape and what happened to his beloved family. He said, ‘I know they went to heaven holding hands.’ And if we are going to get through all the storms that confront us, that’s how we are going to do it — together, hand in hand.”

The Saldivar family’s story was shared by The Washington Post, which reported how Sammy attempted to save six of his family members — including his elderly parents and four great-grandnieces and grandnephews — in Hurricane Harvey.

“He could hear the kids screaming but couldn’t push the doors open, that’s what he keeps hearing in his head,” Ric Saldivar, Sammy’s brother, told the newspaper. “And the van just went underwater and was gone.”

Beyoncé also participated in the telethon, making a plea for unity and discussing climate change.

Watch part of Gomez’s emotional tribute to the Saldivars in the video above.

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