AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - A large crowd gathered at Spokane International Airport on Wednesday night to welcome Ayla James back to the Inland Northwest.
People lined the airport waiting for little Ayla to make her way down the concourse. Once she appeared, it was hugs all around.
Alya spent the last two months in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, then later moved to Seattle Children's Hospital.
"It was just really amazing to see her walking and have her neck brace off and everything. It was really exciting," said Alya's friend Olivia.
Friends and family anxiously awaited the family's arrival from Seattle, standing with signs, flowers and balloons.
"I was like, um, I don't want to hurt her, but I'm really excited because when I hugged her I didn't want to hug her too hard, but I was really excited," said Alya's friend Jazmine.
Ayla was recovering from a car crash that happened back in May. She, her father, Nathan, and friend, Gracie Snider were coming home from a soccer game in Yakima when their car hit a semi-truck. The accident killed Snider and put Ayla in critical condition.
"It was one of the hardest conversations I had to have with my daughter, and then for my daughter to be able to see Ayla come through the door, she's a fighter," said James family friend Bobby Moore.
While it was a happy moment for all, it was bittersweet to some, reminding them that little Gracie won't be coming home.
"It's been hard... it's just being able to think of that," said Ayla's friend Jordyn.
Despite the Snider's family loss, they still came out to see Ayla's return.
Ayla told Gracie's dad, Jay, that she loved him and gave him a kiss on the cheek, then continued hugging the rest of her friends and thanking them for their support.
"It was so exciting for her to come home because it's been a long journey," said Alya's friend Abbey.
"I was on her site everyday and looking at her improvements and it was amazing," said Olivia.
The James family said they were overwhelmed by the scene at the airport, but thankful for all of the support from the community.
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