UA grad honors husband killed on 9/11

Updated: Sep. 11, 2020 at 11:01 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Nineteen years after the September 11th terrorist attacks, a University of Arizona alumna continues to move her family and and many others, forward.

“Things are different now, they’re good. But, we still miss him every minute of every day," said Christie Coombs.

Jeff Coombs, Christie’s husband, left for a business trip to Los Angeles on the morning of September 11, 2001. She still remembers dropping him off to catch the train to Logan International Airport.

“I usually pull away right there, but for some reason I watched him walk the platform and waited for the train and I thought to myself, we should have better goodbyes because you just never know," said Coombs. "Thinking back now that I actually had that thought, it’s very eerie.”

Coombs would board American Airlines Flight 11.

Since traveling for work was not unusual, Christie said she didn’t ask for specific flight information. She saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center on morning television.

“And Jeff used to go there for business trips and I said, thank goodness today Jeff is on a flight to L.A., instead of at the World Trade Center," said Coombs.

But, relief turned to heartbreak. Hours later, Coombs confirmed her husband was on the hijacked flight.

“I had to tell my kids that some bad people flew daddy’s plane into the building and he’s not coming home," said Coombs. "And, it was all down hill from there for quite some time and 19 years later, we’re obviously coping with it.”

The Yuma native met Jeff at a fraternity at the University of Arizona her freshman year. Fate, as the funny Massachusetts man made his way west, sight unseen.

“He was just a nice guy and fun to be around. He loved the outdoors, we used to spend a lot of time around Mt. Lemmon and Seven Falls," said Coombs. “I was all of 19, he was 21 and we were together ever since.”

Jeff graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business and began his career in finance and computers. The Wildcat couple would move back to his home state of Massachusetts.

The proud father of three known for his stature and smile.

“My kids have grown up to be awesome people. I see their dad in every little change they make as they get older," said Coombs. “His zest for life.”

Just months after the attacks, Coombs said she needed to focus on something for her family. After an outpouring of support from the community in their time of tragedy, she started The Jeff Coombs Memorial Foundation.

“I was tired of being in this black hole of grief and I just needed to do something that was positive and something that would show my kids that we can get out of this, however hard it’s going to be, however long it’s going to take,” said Coombs.

The foundation helps Massachusetts families who are in financial need because of a death, illness or other situation that challenges the family budget. It also provides emotional support to families by funding special outings and fun events.

Since November 2001, the Foundation has raised and distributed between $50,000-$90,000 a year in Jeff’s memory.

“It’s too easy to sit and wallow and say woe is me," said Coombs. "I think it’s easier to step out of that and find positive ways to continue forward.”

On September 11, Coombs usually spends her day doing service projects, but the pandemic changed plans across the country this year.

“It’s really important to step out and really be nice, do a random act of kindness," said Coombs.

To learn more about The Jeff Coombs Memorial Foundation, click here.

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