Colbert opened up about losing his father and two brothers in a plane crash.

By Nick Romano
January 29, 2020 at 09:56 AM EST

Jimmy Kimmel Live

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Stephen Colbert didn’t get a chance to address the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant on Monday, since they didn’t have a show and his Late Show maestro Jon Batiste was flying back to New York from the Grammys. So, on Tuesday’s episode, both took a moment to address this loss.

“I never got to meet him but I do feel a strange connection in this moment, one I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Colbert said.

When he was 10 years old in 1974, Colbert lost his father, 53-year-old James William Colbert, Jr., and two brothers, 18-year-old Peter and 15-year-old Paul, when their Eastern Airlines Flight 212 crashed in a cornfield in North Carolina due to a pilot error.

“One of the terrible things about that shock and the heartbreaking unreality, nightmare quality of someone huge in your life who just disappears, the center of your love disappearing in that moment, is not knowing what happened,” Colbert continued.

The host then called for the inclusion of black box recorders in helicopters. In the case of Eastern Airlines Flight 212, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated cockpit recorders and determined the crew were engaged in “non-pertinent” conversation as the craft approached fog. “Because investigators knew what happened in that cockpit, new rules were created to save other peoples’ lives,” Colbert explained. “It’s called a sterile cockpit rule so flight safety could be improved. And I think it’s crazy that helicopters don’t have black box recorders.”

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County. Most of the late-night TV personalities already addressed the situation and extended their sympathies for Bryant’s surviving family, but Tuesday also saw retired Lakers player Magic Johnson and Grammys host Alicia Keys respond.

“Kobe wouldn’t have wanted me to cancel [my appearance],” Johnson said as he sat down with Jimmy Kimmel. “Kobe would want us to carry on and be great in our lives. We should do something positive, whether it’s making sure we love our family or giving back to an organization in his name. We should do something great because he was such a great man, great husband, great father, incredible basketball player.”

The Grammys ceremony opened with a tribute to the Bryants on Sunday night and Keys told Ellen DeGeneres what an intense moment it was.

“We were all freaking out because, obviously, hearing the news about Kobe and his daughter was tragic and none of us can still believe it now to this day,” she said. “So, I think that it was definitely a crazy feeling because literally minutes before we were going to do something else and we had to figure out, how do we properly honor him in his house on this night and everyone who adores him and loves him so much and is inspired by him? And it felt so [devastating].”

“We pulled it together and it was just beautiful,” she added. “It was like that magic that happens when it’s necessary… I was very honored to be able to share that moment with all of us, with the entire world that we together could go through something that hurt so bad together.”

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