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What are you thankful for? North Texas families reflect on the changes of the past year

Much has changed over the past year and many families are gathering for the first time since before COVID-19.

FORT WORTH, Texas — That last year and a half has felt like a lifetime for many people. This year, the holiday season feels different.

“It’s been about two years since we were able to get together,” Christal Grandell, who was visiting Sundance Square with her family, said. “We were really excited to get together and love on each other and have a great time.”

Grandell is in health care. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 80,000 Texans, but on Thanksgiving Day of 2020, vaccinations hadn’t started. This year, roughly 18.5 million Texans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

“We’ve lost some loved ones,” Grandell said. “I think it just give more purpose to what thanksgiving is and the time to be thankful for each other.”

Stephanie and Richard Edgett were also among the dozens of families that went to Sundance Square for photos on Thanksgiving Day.

“Last year was a lot quieter, right?” Stephanie said. “We Zoomed people. We Skyped people in. Just had kind of quiet meal at home with just the meal that we cooked for the two of us.”

This Christmas, they plan to host a full house.

“Just be grateful for the time we have together because as we learned last year, we don’t always get that,” Richard said.

It’s the time of year for stressful highway traffic and airport lines, but it’s also the time to gather and reflect.

“My family and my friends. They’re always there for me when I need it,” 13-year-old Mattie Philson said. “I think it’s really important to have your family in hard times and just be able to spend time with them.”

“Thankful for everybody’s health,” Krystal Philson, Mattie’s mother, said. “Yep, the health.”

“As they grow and the children are born, it just gets better and better every year,” Toni Grandell said.

The toughest years can still give us the most reason to be thankful, so this year, embrace the stress and long travel days because this year, we can all embrace again.

“Once you start getting around other people again you realize the life that they bring to you and the love that they bring to you,” Grandell said.