ROCKLIN -- Laughter, smiles, the embrace of an entire community, it's a familiar warmth Cody Michael thought he might not feel again.
"It's a little overwhelming, but this is all I wanted, just to make it back," Michael said.
Despite the trauma and the uncertainty Michael has endured the past few days, lost in the Sierra after going on a hike with his dog, Thursday night was about fun and relishing the moment.
"It's crazy, I just want to make it around and thank everybody," said Michael.
Thursday's gathering was at Primo Pizza in Rocklin. The 23-year-old works at the restaurant. He credits his faith for helping him get through his ordeal.
"I've already said it a few times, but thank you and God bless you to everyone that was involved in that operation," said Michael.
Seeing the familiar faces of family and friends, he says is a reminder of those who prayed, those who hoped beyond all measure of doubt that Michael would be reunited with them. They are the faces of those who never gave up that he would come home alive.
Long time friend Brandon McKenzie said seeing Michael alive and well reinforces his faith.
"I won't be the first to tell you that this was God's work," said McKenzie.
For Michael, it's a second chance of sorts, to squeeze in one more hug, one more picture. All the while, reflecting on the rescue efforts it took to bring him home.
"I can't thank them enough, they saved my life."