By Michael Rausch CapeNews.net
They are scattered across the region; tributes to the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Nearly 3,000 people died that day: 206 of them had close ties to Massachusetts, many to the Cape. Some are large and easy to spot, such as the twisted girder hanging on the wall at the second story landing of the Sagamore Beach Fire Station; a testimonial to the firefighters who sacrificed their lives trying to save the victims.
An oak tree was planted outside Bourne Town Hall, at the corner of Perry Avenue and Everett Road, in memory of the victims.
In Sandwich, the high school’s new running track is dedicated to native son Navy Captain Gerald F. DeConto, killed in the attack on the Pentagon that day. Less obvious, but of no less significance, is a rock memorial that sits at the end of a narrow path leading from Circuit Avenue to Patuisset Beach in Pocasset, overlooking Bassetts Island. A plaque is affixed to the rock in memory of Jeffrey W. Coombs. It reads: In Loving Memory of Jeffrey W. Coombs; September 18, 1958-September 11, 2001: “Jeff’s Beach.”
Two stones, one engraved with the word “Peace” and the other bearing the word “Love,” sit among seashells that surround the memorial rock. Four American flags border the memorial, and a marble bench faces the plaque, giving visitors a place to sit and reflect.
A resident of Abington, Mr. Coombs worked for Compaq Computers, and was on United Airlines Flight 11, on a business trip to Los Angeles, when terrorists crashed the plane into the World Trade Center. He was 42.
In 2011, Mr. Coombs’s widow, M. Christie Coombs, appeared on WBUR radio on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and spoke of the Pocasset memorial to her late husband.
“It’s a nice place. We don’t have a gravesite for him. So it’s a nice place to go and just kind of touch his name, and wish he were there with us,” she said.
She said that the Cape was very special to her husband; he and his family vacationed here when he was growing up. The couple raised their children, Matthew, 25, Meaghan, 22, and Julie, 18, in Abington, but the family vacationed in Bourne during summers, too.
“We would spend every weekend there,” she said.
She recalled that the path where the memorial sits leads down to a small beach where there was a floating boardwalk. Her husband would go there with their children to collect crabs and see the fish in the water. She said that small area of beach was a place where they would go and “just kind of escape.”
It was at this place of escape for the couple and their children that Mr. Coombs’s brothers found a spot to put their tribute.
“That’s what we call it. Jeff’s Rock. At Jeff’s Beach,” Ms. Coombs said.
In a June 2001 letter, written to then Bourne Board of Selectmen member Leo F. Locke, Mr. Coombs’ brother, Douglas, asked for the town’s approval for the memorial. He wrote that his brother’s family, along with the extended Coombs family, had been gathering at that small beach for more than 20 years, “and have shared a lifetime of beautiful memories, which we now cherish more than ever.” He also mentioned that it was on that section of beach where the entire family was last all together, on Labor Day 2001.
“As such, it would be a wonderful place for my family to be able to go to pray and pay tribute to our lost brother, son, husband, father, and friend,” Mr. Coombs wrote.
Since her husband’s death, Ms. Coombs has established the Jeff Coombs Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Massachusetts families who are challenged either financially or emotionally by death, illness or other circumstances. The foundation also assists military families through grants and special programs. Last Sunday, the foundation held the Jeff Coombs Memorial Road Race and Walk in Abington. Race participants were encouraged to donate a non-perishable food item for the Abington Food Pantry, as well as old cellphones for Cell Phones for Soldiers.