FOX40 Special: Stories We’re Thankful For 2021

Local News

Every Thanksgiving, FOX40 looks back over the past year at the stories that brought laughter, united communities and highlighted just how compassionate people are here in Northern California.

They’re stories about people who went above and beyond to inspire someone, change the course of history, or even save a life.

These are the Stories We’re Thankful For.


A local family remembered their beloved daughter and the others who were killed by a suicide bomber in August in Afghanistan. Eleven marines, a Navy corpsman and a soldier paid the ultimate sacrifice that day. Most of them were children when the war in Afghanistan began nearly two decades ago, including Sgt. Nicole Gee. 

Lance Cpl. Andrew Brockle-Hurst was also in Kabul that day. The 24-year-old escaped uninjured and returned home to the tight-knit community of Rancho Murietta. Hundreds of supporters gave him the warmest welcome home. 

Back in February, Cpl. Andrew Long, a five-year veteran of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office, grabbed the arm of a man just as he was trying to jump off a bridge. 

Tears of joy and thankfulness were shed when a Sacramento woman was reunited with the two people who saved her life. 

Thousands of brave firefighters worked 24-hour shifts this year as California saw another record-breaking fire season. Volunteer firefighter Richard Gerety was injured battling the Caldor Fire. He was part of a four-man strike team from the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District. 

Amid the destruction from the Caldor Fire emerged a story of hope. A congregation was left without a place of worship after theirs burned to the ground until another church stepped in to help. It was a Sunday neither congregation will soon forget. 

A Vacaville family and first responders had a heartwarming reunion after they helped with an emotional and unusual welcome into the world. A few weeks ago, an expecting mom went into labor at home and couldn’t make it to the hospital. 

Also in Vacaville, a story of heroism. A woman came face-to-face with flames and made an incredible rescue. 

A mother and child are counting their blessings after surviving a near-death experience. They thanked firefighters for saving not only one but two lives. 

A little more than a century ago, a man named Rufus Burgess founded California Gold Country’s first African American church. He arrived at Coloma as a slave but died a landowner. Now, his great-great-grandsons are fighting for the state to recognize him. 

Last month, dozens of people showed up for the funeral of men they had never met. They made sure veterans who died for their country received the honors they deserved. 

Earlier this year, when the state called for more vaccine clinics in underserved communities, one woman sprang into action. 

A Yuba County sheriff’s deputy was hailed as a hero after body camera footage showed the heart-stopping moment he saved a baby’s life. 

Sammie Dacong inspired countless people in her 18 years of life. In the midst of a heartbreaking battle with a rare form of cancer, she made it her mission to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Before she died in July, she was able to raise more than $130,000 for the foundation.

The pandemic has been hard on kids of all ages, like high school seniors who had many traditions and annual events canceled. One high school girl’s basketball team put aside their rivalry and made sure the seniors from the other team got the recognition they deserved. 

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