JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A United Airlines flight heading from Houston to Jacksonville was diverted to New Orleans Wednesday. Aboard that flight was a 10-year-old girl, who succumbed to cancer mid-flight.
On Thursday, the 5th grader's family and classmates mourned her death and remembered the brave little girl.
Aaliyah Mitchell was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare cancer, when she was just 8 years old. On Monday, a specialist in Houston told the family tumors had filled Aaliyah's left lung and there wasn't anything else they could do to save her.
"Even if you know, I just don't think it's something that you can prepare for I mean she's a child," said Aaliyah's mother, Heather Williams.
Williams decided to fly her daughter back home to be with family and friends in Jacksonville. But while flying to the River City, Aaliyah died.
"She just very slowly stopped breathing and I just held her," said Williams. "And I told her I loved her and if I could cure her I would."
At Montclair Elementary in Orange Park, Principal Bill Miller had to break the devastating news to his faculty and students who continued to support a little girl, that inspired them all.
"She had this glow of spirit to her that you couldn't explain as it really truly shined throughout our school," said Miller.
Over the years, they have sold bracelets and T-shirts to help Williams with her mounting bills.
"I know that we have a guardian angel now watching over our school," said Miller
"As much as it hurts for her to be gone, she at her young age has made an impact on a lot of people," said Williams.
She describes Aaliyah's smile as bright and contagious, and says through the years of pain and hurt Aaliyah rarely complained. She remained peaceful to the very end.
Aaliyah's body will be flown to Jacksonville from New Orleans in the coming days.
There were grief counselors on hand Thursday at Montclair Elementary. They'll be there Friday as well. If you would like to help with Aaliyah's funeral expenses click here.