This Is Not a Tribute to Kobe Bryant

When Death Makes the News

Aabye-Gayle F.


Photo by Wallace Chuck from Pexels

When I found out who Fred Noonan was — that Amelia Earhart didn’t disappear alone — it made me feel less secure of my grip on reality. I was a child who never believed in Santa Claus, and so I never experienced having that illusion broken. Finding out about Noonan was as close as I’ve ever come in my life to having something that I believed to be true so shockingly shattered for me. I wonder if children ever resent the grownups who colluded to keep them believing in Santa Claus. I certainly felt betrayed by all the accounts of Earhart that I’d encountered to date. In almost four decades of living, I’ve heard Amelia Earhart and her fateful journey mentioned countless times. And not once (not until a few years ago while listening to a podcast) had I ever heard reference made of anyone else being in that plane. Not once had I ever heard or read “Amelia Earhart and…” I was shocked. And I wondered how the Noonan family felt about it.

So when I heard that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash, confident that there must have at least also been a pilot on the aircraft, I listened for the “Kobe Bryant and…” It was there sometimes, but it didn’t always come. Many accounts spoke of his death as though he had died alone.

I understand that Kobe will almost always get top billing when this sad story is told. His name is globally recognizable. He literally has fans all over the world. But (at least in my opinion) none of his accomplishments and accolades increase his intrinsic value. He is still a man — a mere mortal like all of us. His talent, fame, and wealth does not mean his life or death matters more than any other death or life — not more than the others on that star-crossed flight — not more enough to eclipse even the mention of them. His life, as any, meant a lot — everything, in fact — to those who actually knew and intimately loved him. Not the fans. Not the millions he entertained or inspired, but the people who called him friend, father, son, or husband. It is everyone who knew and loved someone on that flight that I feel for — everyone.

Each life lost on that helicopter will be mourned just as acutely. Their names might not make the news. Their photographs may only be recognizable to a modest few. But the grief felt by every parent…