Rozner: Super day to remember those who lost so very much in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

  • Students, parents and friends gather for a candlelight vigil for Alyssa Altobelli Thursday in Newport Beach, Calif. Alyssa and her parents, John and Keri, were among the nine who were killed last Sunday in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., that also took the lives of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna. John Altobelli was from Mount Prospect and moved west in fifth grade.

    Students, parents and friends gather for a candlelight vigil for Alyssa Altobelli Thursday in Newport Beach, Calif. Alyssa and her parents, John and Keri, were among the nine who were killed last Sunday in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., that also took the lives of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna. John Altobelli was from Mount Prospect and moved west in fifth grade. Associated Press

  • Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna attend a game between the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks Dec. 29 in Los Angeles. They died last Sunday in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of seven others.

    Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna attend a game between the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks Dec. 29 in Los Angeles. They died last Sunday in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of seven others. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/31/2020 6:38 PM

The tributes arrived by the tens of millions last Sunday.

On the day Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, those of us whose full-time job it is to reserve a spot in the books immediately moved to honor an all-time NBA great, providing eulogy with a sense of history.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Never simple is it to mourn and chronicle at the same time, but social media was filled to the brim with homage after homage, highlight after highlight.

And it was all so very lovely.

For some of us, however, there was a thought that nagged throughout the day and those that followed.

It had nothing to do with basketball, nothing at all to do with a game.

That horrible feeling was due to pondering the futures of children who lost a mother, father or sibling -- and in one case all of the above.

We were heartbroken for children orphaned in that crash -- and for parents who lost children.

That was at top of mind for days, an ache centered in the stomach, a gut punch that runs deep and has not gone away.

The parents among us instantly understood.

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Kobe Bryant the player left us years ago, especially Kobe the court assassin, the natural result of time, regression and a physical pounding.

We expect that and understand it.

What left last Sunday was Kobe The Father Of Girls.

By midweek, the hashtag "GirlDad" was trending in honor of the Bryant who adored his four daughters. I get it. I am the father of girls. They are my whole world, so I do not think of the unthinkable, because -- simply -- it is unbearable.

As dreadful as social media can be, that hashtag was a brilliant coming together of the world's fathers bragging about -- and expressing love for -- their girls.

How quickly it went viral was remarkable.

Still, lost amid the concern for Bryant and his family the first few days were the other families torn apart by this accident.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

College baseball coach John Altobelli -- so very long ago of Mount Prospect -- died along with his wife and daughter, leaving behind a 29-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. Sixteen and an orphan, having also lost her sister.

Unimaginable.

Christina Mauser, an assistant coach at Bryant's Academy, left behind a husband and children.

How do you pick up the pieces?

Sarah Chester and her daughter, who played basketball with Bryant's daughter, were on board. A husband has lost a wife and daughter, and two sons have lost their mom and sister.

Inconceivable.

These are some of the victims, their loved ones suffering losses that they will never get over, that they will never fully understand.

They awoke last Sunday morning unaware of what would be the horrific change to their existence, not knowing the rest of their lives would be remembered as everything before that phone call.

And everything after.

Chances are good you never met Kobe Bryant, but you have known hundreds, maybe thousands of Altobellis, Mausers and Chesters.

Coaches, parents and children, people who care about your kids -- or play alongside them -- teaching them about life and sports, how to compete and how to achieve.

Their funerals and memorials are not broadcast, not attended by tens of thousands, and their families will go on quietly trying to come to terms with what has occurred, trying to somehow get through today and hope tomorrow brings less pain.

Those homes will be silent, even on Super Bowl Sunday, perhaps the game a brief distraction from the anguish, but only for seconds at a time.

For the children left behind, they must wonder how the world can be so cruel, what they did to deserve a life without those most important to them.

For the parents of children gone, there is an indescribable, knee-buckling pain only they will ever understand.

Yet, on Sunday, the Shanahans from East Leyden and the Garoppolos from Arlington Heights will be together in Miami for -- win or lose -- one of the greatest days of their lives.

And more than 100 million will surround big-screen TVs and watch a sporting event, checking wagers, laughing at commercials and partaking in a feast.

On such a day when so many gather with family to celebrate the playing of a game, there will be homes where it is oddly quiet.

And those who have lost so very much will be in our thoughts.

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