Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Absolutely No Foolery #51: In Memory of 9/11

Unexpectedly at the grave of a 9/11 victim, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

I wander around in cemeteries (and public libraries) wherever I travel if I get a chance to. You'd be amazed at what you can learn about a community from them.

On the last day of my MBL/NLM Biomedical Informatics fellowship I walked past a church that was clearly having a wedding inside but saw a cemetery tucked around the back. I realized I would not be a disturbance to anyone at the ceremony or during a departure for the reception so I went to visit.

My heart fell when I read the inscription for Jeffrey Coombs, who was on Flight 11 on September 11, 2001... the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center.

Back in those child-free days I used to get up at 5:50 am (Pacific time) and go work out to a Pilates DVD. On that particular day I was getting ready to head off to my second day of jury duty. My husband was just under 2 months unemployed (it would stretch to 15), the dotcom bust gripping Seattle tech jobs hard.

I switched on the TV and saw the coverage of Flight 11 & the World Trade Center, thinking it was a sad but explainable accident of maybe about a Cessna-sized plane... equipment malfunction, navigational error, etc. Obviously it wasn't weather related since there wasn't a cloud in the sky in New York.

Then I and the rest of America awake at the time watched the live TV coverage of Flight 175 hitting the other tower of the World Trade Center at 6:03 am (Pacific time again).

The local news anchors were silent. I was silent. Then my mind, in a voice similar to our seven-year-old son's when a friend has bonked him & he's running to tell me about it, said 'But... but... that was on PURPOSE!!'

I bowed my head and paid my respects at the grave then looked closer. See how his family chose his gravestone to match the inscription style of the established family one that has run out of room for additional members and been there since the 1920s?

Who is Jeffrey Coombs? A father of three from Abington, MA whose friends and family chose to take the pain from their quite public loss and work for a better good through the Jeffrey Coombs Foundation. Their accomplishments are many. From their website,
The Jeff Coombs Foundation was formed to assist 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. Committed to education, the foundation helps fund enrichment programs in the Abington Schools, and awards scholarships to graduating college-bound seniors and students in private high schools.

My thoughts are with all who lost loved ones on this day 8 years ago.