Asia S. Cottom
Hometown: Washington, D.C., USA
Occupation: Student, Backus Middle School (Washington)
Location: Passenger, American Flight 77, Pentagon
Asia Cottom, 11, had just started sixth grade at a new school, eager to learn and pleased to be at the campus where her father worked. The North Michigan Park girl was selected to take a trip to California with a teacher to participate in a National Geographic Society ecology conference.
The girl and teacher Sarah Clark were on American Airlines Flight 77 at the start of their four-day trip.
Though Asia was new to Bertie Backus Middle School in Northeast Washington, some staff members said they knew her because her father works there as an aide, helping to coach basketball, patrolling the halls and serving as a book clerk.
Her father is popular with students, Backus employees said, because he is patient and walks around with a big smile -- the same way his daughter was described by several people.
They said Asia was a kindhearted girl who was helpful to other students who had difficulty learning and was herself persistent, continually trying until she grasped a lesson.
Neighbors said they saw her and her younger brother playing outside and walking to a bus stop to go to school, and they recalled that she would greet them with a smile and a hello. She also watched over a young cousin, reminding him to not eat too much popcorn.
On Wednesday, the day after the hijacking, one of her teachers, Lizzie Jones, addressed the sixth-grade language arts class.
"We are missing someone today. Do you know who that is?" she asked. "Yes," some of the children said. "Asia."
The students talked about how much they would miss her.
Jones said that Asia's mother told her on the night of the tragedy: " 'Mrs. Jones, my baby got her wings today.' And I told her, 'We have to live right so we can get our wings when it is our time.' "
-- Valerie Strauss
Source: The Washington Post, AP and washingtonpost.com
The profiles in this feature were written in the months following Sept. 11, 2001.
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