HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- Family members of a beloved Hillsborough County school bus driver are opening up for the first time since she was killed last month, only hours before the first day of class.
Cynthia Gibson died August 12 while driving east on Airport Road in Plant City. Investigators say she crashed her SUV into a parked semitrailer truck before her shift.
"She just loved life and loved being around people," said her daughter, Cynesia Boykins.
Gibson was a dedicated driver for Hillsborough County Public Schools for more than three decades, affectionately known as "Ms. Cherry" by hundreds of students.
"She was always just encouraging them just to see the smile on their faces," said Boykins. "It was more than work to her. It was more about reaching people, reaching kids."
The morning of Gibson's death was set to be her last first day of school. The veteran driver planned to retire in May.
Gibson would have had two special riders on her route this school year, her own grandchildren, ages 7 and 8.
"Just crying and shaking up because they wanted Cherry. They missed Cherry. They wanted to see her," said Boykins. "That was all they knew was her being a bus driver."
Boykins said her mother spent much of her free time volunteering in the community, being a foster parent, and contributing to the local bus union. After her death, many drivers called to credit Gibson with helping save their job.
"She used every moment of her life to help others," said Justin Boykins. "That’s the way she found joy, that’s the way she gave back."