For these parents who lost their daughter on 9/11, life couldn't stop. They also had a son.

Finding purpose after the loss of a child.

The Cottoms were a pretty typical American family before Sept. 11, 2001. Clifton and Michelle were the parents of two wonderful kids: Isiah and his younger sister, Asia. The kids were close, and the foursome was a family unit that was full of love and life.


All photos from Michelle and Clifton Cottom, used with permission.

But all of that changed on one heartbreaking day.

When Asia was just 11 years old, her life was cut tragically short.

A passenger on United Flight 77, headed to California for a school field trip, Asia died when the plane crashed into the Pentagon.


Michelle, an equal employment opportunity officer for a federal agency in Washington, D.C., and Clifton, a behavioral technician with the District of Columbia Public System, were suddenly faced with every parent's worst nightmare: a life without their child. And to say that her brother, who was 17 at the time, was devastated would be a gross understatement.

Following Asia's death, the Cottoms' lives changed in an instant.

No parent imagines losing a child — and so no parent is prepared to move on in life without her. In the blink of an eye, the Cottoms, still parents to 17-year-old Isiah, had to learn to function in a whole new way.

"We just went through the motions," Michelle said about their lives immediately following the plane crash. They faced life by waking up and taking each minute as it came. "We tried to make some sense of what was really going on," she shared.

Despite being a big brother with a hole in his heart, Isiah was a source of strength for his parents. And that strength helped them with their own grief.

“They played, laughed, and cried together," Michelle told me of Isiah and Asia's relationship.

Isiah was a rock for his parents, even while grieving the loss of his best friend. "He helped his father get closer to God by illustrating his faith," Michelle said. "Isiah dropped to his knees and immediately began to pray when we told him about the plane crash."

Michelle and Clifton admired the amount of strength and maturity their son possessed at the young age of 17.

Losing a child is hard enough. Losing a child to an act of terrorism that is the center of national attention adds another layer of complexity.

"When a tragic world event such as 9/11 occurs, it riddles individual families with unimaginable trauma and pain," Dr. Fran Walfish, a relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, told me.

Like many Americans who were devastated by the atrocities committed on 9/11, some of Isiah's peers also experienced feelings of vengefulness. And so just as he had inspired them with his maturity and faith, Isiah's parents helped him deal with the anger, hate, and pain that swirled around him every day.

“He had to deal with the pressure and questions that came to him from his classmates and friends. All of who, just like a lot of Americans, wanted revenge," Michelle recalls. Isiah faced all of these challenges and more with grace and strength.

“We instilled in him that revenge and hate was not an option even though everything around us was going to war."

There is no "new normal."

I asked Michelle if there's any way to settle into a new normal after such a devastating loss. The answer was clear: “Losing a child is not normal, so there will never be a 'new normal.' We live each day one at a time," she explained.

When it comes to parenting, people who have more than one child can't just check out completely when one dies to deal with their own grief. But as Michelle points out, Isiah was 17 and didn't require as much hands-on parenting as a younger child would. Still, even with an older child, there are pitfalls and ways that grieving parents could respond that don't help the child who is left behind.

"The parents had two children and were now left with one," Dr. Walfish noted. "It would be understandable if they held tighter and overprotected their surviving 17-year-old son."

And yet, that wasn't what the Cottoms did. They gave their son room to grow and to grieve. "We always talked to him about his feelings, hurt, pain, anger, and frustrations," Michelle said.

While some parents of younger kids might need to rely on their adult friends and family members to fill in the gaps and nurture their child as they too continue to grieve, Isiah was older and had a meaningful friendship in place to help him through the early stages. During the initial weeks and months following Asia's death, Isiah spent a lot of time with his cousin Mike, who was one year older and with whom both he and Asia had a good friendship.

As time went on and the Cottoms worked through their pain, they were able to arrive at a place together where their daughter and sister remains alive and well in their hearts, minds, and souls.

“We talk about her often and daily," Michelle said. “It is not painful — it is thoughtful and on purpose. Our memories are full of joy not the pain and sting of death."

Following Asia's death on 9/11, the Cottoms received an outpouring of financial contributions.

Many people and places — including schools, churches, boys' and girls' clubs, social clubs, companies, and more — sent money in Asia's name.

“This outpouring of generosity is what motivated us to create a scholarship fund in honor of our daughter," Michelle said. “Asia loved to learn, and even at 11 years old, [she] had big plans to attend college in California to become a 'baby doctor' — a pediatrician."

An added touch of heart-wrenching meaning was found in exactly how people gave: Many of the financial gifts were made in denominations of 11, such as 11 cents, $11, $111, and so on, symbolizing Asia's age at the time of her death.

The result of the generosity of others and the Cottoms is the Asia SiVon Cottom (ASC) Memorial Scholarship Fund, a 501(c)3 charitable organization that was created to honor Asia's life.

“Awards are made to deserving students who excel academically with special consideration given to students interested in math, science, and information technology," Michelle explained.

To date, the Cottoms have awarded over $250,000 in scholarships to students through their fund. “Our ASC scholars are now teachers, nurses, analysts, contract negotiators, engineers, and providing legal services, to name a few," Michelle said.

The Cottoms also wrote a book called "Asia's New Wings: The Untold Story of a Young Girl Lost on 9/11."

“It is a story about Asia's life, passion, legacy, and how to move on after experiencing loss," Michelle said. The book talks about how the Cottom family turned the most tragic thing that could have happened to them into “an opportunity to immortalize Asia and educate a nation."

Book jacket from "Asia's New Wings: The Untold Story of a Young Girl Lost on 9/11."

“We were motivated to write the book because many people keep telling us that we needed to share Asia's story … many had no idea children were lost during the 9/11 terrorist attacks," Michelle shared.

The Cottoms have found that the book not only helps parents who have lost a child, but also those dealing with other types of grief — in addition to allowing them to find “some level of closure" themselves.

“The Bible says a peace that surpasses all understanding. We have learned to accept what God allows whether we like it or not," Michelle said. “We have learned how to live on."

The Cottoms have learned that as time goes on, so does their love.

Losing a child is “unnatural and unfair," Michelle said. Parenting after such tragic loss will forever be an experience that only those who have lost one of multiple children can fully understand. But through their story we see the role that faith, friends, honesty, and love played in helping them all stay whole and make it through.

Today, Michelle says that despite the ways in which their life might seem drastically different, the only thing that's really changed is that Asia is no longer here on earth. They are still her parents. And she is forever their daughter.

“She remains alive and well in the hearts of all who knew and loved her."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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