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Friends and local business owners gather to mourn their hero, Kobe Bryant

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 16:20:03-05

CINCINNATI — The barber shop is usually closed on Mondays, but the owner of Noble Barber and Beauty in Corryville opened his for a chat with his friends about the loss of a hero — NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash with his daughter and seven other people.

Vernon Jackson opened the doors of his shop to friends and fellow business owners Jeff Knight, Sergio Smith and Harold Douglas so they could process Sunday's tragedy together.

“For me it’s like, ‘nah,’ and the first thing you think of is disbelief,” Knight said.

Knight is a father, so the news of Bryant’s daughter dying in the accident hit him hard.

“The extra part with the daughter and me having a daughter and then having to go home...that’s what made it like a very, very bad ending to a movie, like it’s not real,” Knight said.

Douglas has a hard time seeing pictures of Bryant all over social media. He said it feels too soon.

“I’m just like, no, I just don’t want to believe it,” Douglas said. “It seemed like he was just starting to live his life.”

These four men, all local business owners, looked up to Bryant as a hero.

“You feel like you kind of mimic and look up to that person,” Smith said. “You are learning qualities from that person that you might not be getting at home from a male figure in the household.”

Jackson, Smith, Knight and Douglas did not know Bryant personally, but his death still shook them. Trauma therapist Colleen Cira said it's common for people to experience grief when a celebrity they admire dies.

“It can remind us of our own personal losses,” Cira said. “Grief is not siloed. It’s not vacuumed up. One loss sits on top of the other, and so it’s hard to experience one loss without re-experiencing the other losses in our life.”

Victoria Ott, executive director of Fernside Center for Grieving Children, said there are reasons we connect to those who die in the public eye.

"We may compare their ages to our own," Ott said. "Because he and his daughter were so young it makes us feel vulnerable to our own mortality."

According to Cira, if can be beneficial to gather with friends to talk about the impact someone’s life and death has made.

“It’s very important to actually feel what you are feeling and to vent it in some way, whether that is sharing with a friend who feels safe, or if that’s drawing or writing or whatever,” Cira said. “Feel the feelings and actually work through them.”

That’s the kind of space Jackson wanted to open up in his shop.

“It’s a space where the coach of every client comes out, the team owner of every client comes out,” Jackson said.