9/11 Mom with ‘Unfortunate Knowledge’ Counseled Survivors

By Matt Stout Boston Herald

Less than a day after the bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon finish line last year, Christie Coombs got the first call.

For many, the Abington mother is the face of scores of resilient families who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And she has “unfortunate knowledge” that can help others grieving after a catastrophic event.

The question that April day was simple: Would she be up to talking to families and survivors looking to navigate the pain in the terror attack’s wake? Coombs’ response was simple.

“Absolutely,” she recalled yesterday near the marathon finish line. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

So started what Coombs called a “very meaningful experience, one I wish didn’t have to happen.” She’s attended group meetings at Spaulding Rehab. She’s connected with survivors through The One Fund Boston. And through the foundation named after her late husband, Jeffrey Coombs, she’s met with families.

Her advice: Make attending the marathon or tributes surrounding it a “game-day decision.”

“We learned as we went through it that you can never predict how you’re going to feel the next day,” Coombs said. “And the other thing I told them that is very important: Go through the grief process … the way that’s right for you.

“Whether it’s homegrown terrorism or international terrorism, we’re all in this together now,” Coombs said. “If there is something I can do to help you through all of this, then I’m there to do it.”

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