Not even four weeks into January, we were hit with the news we all assumed would be among the worst we'd hear in 2020. And even after more than a year of loss and grief, isolation and anxiety, the events of Jan. 26, 2020, still feel overwhelmingly heartbreaking.
The devastation came in waves on that Sunday morning 24 months ago. What felt unbelievable at first—that a giant like Kobe Bryant could be taken from us at the age of 41—only became more unimaginable as the hours wore on.
By nighttime, as celebrities poured into Los Angeles' Staples Center, the site of that evening's Grammys and the spot where the NBA legend had spent his prolific 20-season career, the pieces were coming together: Just before 10 a.m., a helicopter making the 85-mile trip from Orange County's John Wayne Airport to the Mamba Sports Academy near Thousand Oaks, Calif., for a youth basketball tournament had crashed into the hills of Calabasas. All nine passengers aboard died instantly.
That list included Bryant, the larger-than-life athlete, author, Oscar winner and devoted "girl dad" and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, the second of his and Vanessa Bryant's four girls and the one most likely to follow his path onto the hardwood. The toll also included two of her teammates and five other adults, names not as instantly recognizable as the five-time NBA champion, but no less worthy of the tributes and memorials that followed.
Names like Christina Mauser, a skilled, defensive-minded assistant couch on Kobe and Gianna's team who "could figure out anything," as her husband Matt Mauser put it during an appearance on Today the next morning.
He and their three kids are still trying to figure out how to move forward. "We fight for every bit of happiness," the singer-songwriter told the Orange County Register in an interview. It's an ongoing challenge for them and everyone else who had a loved one aboard that fateful flight. On the anniversary of that tragic day we remember all the souls who were lost.
This story was originally published on Tuesday, Jan 26, 2021 at 6 a.m. PT.