9/11 thegrio.com AP
A U.S. flag is unfurled at sunrise on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, at the Pentagon on the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The memory of Michelle and Clifton Cottom’s bright-eyed daughter Asia lives on through a scholarship fund 17 years after she died on Flight 77, on September 11, 2001.

Asia, who was 11 at the time the tragedy struck, was a smart, and busy tween who was bursting with love and light, her parents recall.

“Someone coined it, the little girl with the infectious grin. She had a beautiful smile and she was always smiling,” Michelle recalled. “She was just into everything. She walked fast, learned fast, everything.”

“Asia was not standing still for nothing,” said Clifton.

The Cottoms turned their pain into a passion project and established the Asia SiVon Cottom Memorial Scholarship Fund, which has so far given more than $260,000 to 96 students who shared Asia’s love of STEM 13NewsNow, reports.

In fact, Asia was such a scholar that she won a National Geographic essay contest and her top prize was a trip to the Channel Islands in California. But she never made it.

“I took her to the airport on September 11. Dropped her off. Said my goodbyes,” recalled Clifton.

Clifton said as he headed to work from the airport, he heard reports over the radio that two planes had hit the Twin Towers. His heart sank as he listened to the announcer say a plane also hit the Pentagon.

“I told two of my co-workers, ‘That’s my daughter’s plane,’” said Clifton.

Michelle was directed to turn on the TV by her secretary.

“That was when I was like, ‘Wait a minute… my daughter is on a plane,” recalled Michelle.

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Although the grief and pain will never persist the Cottoms started the memorial campaign to help other kids go to college. It was something Asia always talked about doing.

“To know that Asia wasn’t able to go to college… she would have gone, I can tell you that! But just to see how many students have been able to come through and get the education,” said Paula, Asia’s tutor.

“All in the memory of this young little girl that was born and raised in D.C. who had just big dreams and goals.”

“For me to watch students grow was my way of being able to send Asia to college. Over and over and over again,” said Michelle. “Through the foundation is how we healed a little bit too.”

To visit the Asia SiVon Memorial Cottom Fund’s website, click here.