Since her husband Jeffrey died on Sept. 11, 2001, Abington resident Christie Coombs has been empowering other families who also lost loved ones that day. That is why Christie was chosen to be a speaker this weekend at a Women Without Borders conference in Vienna, Austria. The conference will mark the third annual Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) event, a campaign launched in 2008 by Women Without Borders.


 

Since her husband Jeffrey died on Sept. 11, 2001, Abington resident Christie Coombs has been empowering other families who also lost loved ones that day.


That is why Christie was chosen to be a speaker this weekend at a Women Without Borders conference in Vienna, Austria. The conference will mark the third annual Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) event, a campaign launched in 2008 by Women Without Borders.


“I keep asking myself, ‘whose life am I living?’” Christie said. “I never thought I would be taking part in something of this magnitude.”


According to its mission statement, “Women Without Borders is an advocacy, PR and lobbying organization for women around the globe. As an international initiative for women in politics and civil society, Women Without Borders offers women a forum so that their voices can be heard and their concerns made public.


“Women Without Borders supports women all over the world as they strive towards the inclusion and participation of women in all levels of decision making processes, and to bring their talents and energies in to the public arena.”


Christie said she will be one of possibly two or three other women who will be speaking at the conference, representing the United States.


“There will be women from all over the world there,” Christie said, who added her speech is set for Saturday afternoon. During the rest of the conference, Christie will be attending workshops and taking in speeches by other women.


“I think the only day I can be a tourist is Friday,” she said.


One thing Christie is excited about is that her three kids – Matt, Meaghan and Julia – will be coming along with her, despite the constraints of high school and college.


“My kids don’t like it when I fly alone,” Christie said.


Christie’s husband, Jeffrey, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.


Christie explained that her friend, Carie Lemac, lost her mother on Flight 11. Since that day, Christie and Carie have stayed in touch. But these days, Carie is working as an advocate for terrorism victims in Washington, D.C.


It was Carie that was supposed to be speaking at the conference in Vienna this weekend, Christie said. But Carie already had a previous trip to Jakarta, Indonesia planned.


“So, Carie asked me to go in her place about a month ago,” Christie said. “She’s an amazing young woman. I told her what I do doesn’t really have to do with anything going on at the conference, in terms of terrorism.


“She said, ‘Oh yes it does.’ She told me the work I do with families is exactly in line with what the conference stands for.”


Since 2001, Christie has been opening up to the news media, addressing the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 head-on.


She was instrumental last year in launching the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, which offers guidance to families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001.


Christie also holds a holiday party each year for families of soldiers – those who have died and those still alive – at different venues. She used to hold the party at Gillette Stadium. This year, it was held at Christina’s in Foxboro.


Christie also launched The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists families who have been affected by illness, death or other difficult circumstances that challenge them emotionally and/or financially.


It also provides scholarships to local students and mini-grants to the schools for enrichment programs, and supports area programs. Since November 2001, the foundation has distributed more than $275,000.


Encompassing all those things in a speech isn’t exactly easy to do.


“I have my speech written but I’m only on my second draft,” Christie said.


She said when she gives her speech, her three kids will be on hand. She added during the rest of the time, the kids will be skiing in the Alps.


“They’re pretty excited about it,” she said.


She said there are going to be a number of topics addressed by the women at the conference including terrorism in schools and dealing with the after-effects of terrorism. Christie’s speech will focus on “empowering victims.”


“I’m still really, really amazed that I am doing this,” Christie said. “It’s going to be fantastic. And I’m glad my kids are going with me.”


Abington Mariner