Michelle and Clifton Cottom had to deal with a tragedy that no parent should ever have to deal with.
Their daughter, Asia, had her whole life ahead of her, but the 11-year-old, who won a National Geographic essay contest for D.C. public school students, was one of the children on board the flight that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, WVEC reported.
Asia was on her way for an educational trip to the Channel Islands in California on the day that would change everyone’s lives.
“I took her to the airport on September 11. Dropped her off. Said my goodbyes,” Clifton told WVEC.
He was listening to the radio on his drive to work. He heard that two planes had flown into the Twin Towers in New York City, then the Pentagon.
He knew that it was his daughter’s plane.
Asia was on American Airlines Flight 77.
According to the Pentagon Memorial, the flight had taken off from Dulles International Airport at 8:20 a.m. en route to Los Angeles. Radio communications with the flight ended at 8:51 a.m. Shortly after that time, it is believed that the hijackers took control of the plane over eastern Kentucky. It turned south, then east. The plane’s transponder, a tracker that relays the course, speed and altitude of the plane, was turned off at 8:56 a.m.
At 9:33 a.m., the Secret Service Operations Center in Washington, D.C. was alerted by the tower at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that “an aircraft is coming at you and is not talking with us.” A minute later, the plane turned south, below Alexandria, Virginia, circled northeast, flying toward Washington D.C. At 9:37:46, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon killing 184 people on the flight and those at the country’s military command. The youngest victim was 3 years old. The oldest was 71, according to the Pentagon Memorial.
As people looked for anything they could do to help families of victims, The Cottoms said they would get letters from around the world. Some had donations. and the donations were usually in some sort of denomination of 11.
Asia was 11 years old when she died on 9/11.
Some contained as little as 11 cents. Others had much more, with Michelle and Clifton getting thousands upon thousands of dollars.
A friend suggested starting a memorial scholarship in honor of their daughter, since Asia wanted to go to college.
“For me to watch students grow was my way of being able to send Asia to college. Over and over and over again,” Michelle told WVEC.
In the 17 years since the Attacks on America, the Asia SiVon Memorial Scholarship Fund has helped 96 students get an education in science, math engineering and technology. It has given more than $260,000 so far.
For more on the scholarship, click here.