It seemed like a hoax at first. Tabloid magazine TMZ reported that basketball legend, Kobe Bryant and several others, died in a helicopter crash. As time wore on, updates about this travesty began to unfold. It wasn’t a hoax, it was reality.
For a generation that grew up yelling “Kobe” every time someone made a basket, the news was heart-wrenching.
It shook us to our core and sucked the breath out of our lungs. Memorials with purple and yellow paraphernalia sprung up as the nation mourned in collective grief. Kobe was gone, but way too soon.
Even more heartbreaking was learning that Bryant was accompanied by eight others. One by one, the victim’s identities were revealed: Kobe’s daughter Gianna Bryant, Sarah and Payton Chester, Ara Zobayan, John, Alyssa, Keri Altobelli and Christina Mauser.
Three 13-year-old girls, their parents and their coaches were on their way to a basketball game. In a matter of seconds, their lives were snatched from them. But why?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched an investigation into the crash. There isn’t a definite reason for the crash; answers may take months. All we know is that the helicopter took a sudden turn and crashed into the side of a mountain on a foggy morning.
Even when the NTSB releases info about the investigation, it still doesn’t satisfy our unquenchable thirst for “Why?”
“Why did they have to die? Why Kobe? Why Gianna? Why were their lives stolen from them so soon?”
We won’t ever know these answers, but we’ll demand them. When tragedies like this beseech us, we’ll find a person or decision to blame or hold them accountable as a coping mechanism.
Some say, “This would have never happened if Kobe Bryant was a regular person and drove in LA traffic.” “That was a poor decision on behalf of the piolet to fly in fog,” or “Pff, the helicopter crash would have never gotten national attention if it wasn’t for Kobe Bryant.”
At the end of the day, this tragedy is more than the death of a wealthy sports player.
It’s a stark realization of the fragility of life and a reminder to keep your loved ones close.
As we settle into the daily rhythm of our lives, let’s not forget that grief is just starting for others.
For the victims’ families and friends, the tragedy will have left an impenetrable mark on their lives. They never got the chance to say “goodbye.” One moment they standing right next to them, the next moment they were gone.
As Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe Bryant and mother of Gianna Bryant, expressed on a recent social media post, “I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them.”
The grief these surviving families must endure is unfathomable.
Matt Mauser is left in the wake of figuring out how he will raise his three young children in the absence of their mother and his wife, Christina.
6-month-old Capri Bryant will grow up without knowing who her father and sister were. She’ll only see family pictures and hear stories of the “Black Mamba”, but she’ll never get to see Gianna “Gigi” play at her dream school, UConn.
High school football coach, Andy George, will start next season without the support of his sister, Sarah Chester and thirteen-year-old niece Payton Chester.
Just a month ago, sixteen-year-old Alexis and twenty-nine-year-old JJ Altobelli celebrated the holidays with their mother, father and 13-year-old sister. Now they’ll have to attend their funerals. They will live with the gaping hole of the absence of their sister, mother and father. Home will never quite be the same.
Flight students won’t have the support of their mentor Ara Zobayan as they pursue their careers.
The teammates on Gianna, Payton and Alyssa’s basketball team will go on to pursue basketball careers without them.
The truth is we are not guaranteed tomorrow. All we have is the present moment. Never forget to say “I love you” because you never know when it might be your last.