by Arleigh Rodgers
I was sitting at work when I read the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, and I felt an immediate and overwhelming sense of weird sadness. I have never really been a basketball fan or attached to athletes in general, even though I am one myself. But something about Bryant’s death was so unacceptable, impossible for me, and I couldn’t pinpoint why in the moment.
It took approximately a day for me to think about things and realize why I had become somewhat overbearingly sad about a man I knew very little about. I felt the same way after the rapper Mac Miller overdosed in 2018. I didn’t know Miller’s music well or had ever listened to it at length, and yet — this same overwhelming sadness.
Maybe it was because they were so famous – people that often in the public eye just don’t simply die the way normal people do. And though this thought feels a little ridiculous to think, it’s one of the first ones that popped into my head, and I wonder if it did for many other people.
The day before Bryant died, I attended an a cappella concert in Binghamton, both for a piece I was writing for The Ithacan and to explore Binghamton. A goal of mine for this internship is to explore the Finger Lakes Region as much as possible, and so I drove to Binghamton in hopes of seeing a little more of the world around me. I learned, essentially, that it’s close to the type of city I’m accustomed to, as I live close to New York City. It was an enjoyable drive to Binghamton University, where the performance was held.
But my drive back from Binghamton was marked by impenetrable fog. I could barely drive at a normal speed down roads that had no overhead lights. The thing about fog is that light isn’t really a remedy to the fogginess — what you need is for the fog to just go away. And I was driving with a phone on low battery about 30 minutes from home just telling myself that’s all I needed to get through, and I would be alright. I read in an article that the helicopter Bryant and his daughter took, along with the eight others who died, was flying in foggy conditions.
I felt odd that I had driven an hour in foggy conditions and arrived at home safe with only a little leftover anxiety bubbling away inside my chest. Admittedly I had driven a car from Binghamton to Ithaca and not flown a helicopter, but it struck me how simply it could have been my car or any other car on the road (albeit there were only a few) that was the one that crashed.
A car crash of a student wouldn’t have made so great a mark on the world that Bryant’s death made and is making now. But I acknowledged the fear I had about potentially crashing on that dark, foggy road at approximately 11 p.m. on a Saturday night. In doing so, I saw how easily it could have been me in a news article the following afternoon, not Bryant. Both random, both unpredictable.