WHNT News 19 anchors share who they are thankful for


“Thank you.” A phrase that holds a lot of meaning, especially around this time of year. Everyone at WHNT has a lot to be thankful for. Three of our anchors wanted to share personal stories of who they are thankful for and the impact they’ve made in their lives.

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Jason Simpson

Dear Unsung Heroes of the City of Huntsville,

You are the men and women behind the scenes of an incredible town.  Whether you're keeping the streets clean, the trash collected or ensuring that the public works are working, you are appreciated!

Johnathan Pendergrass drives his truck down my street every week with a smile on his face and a kind word to give any time we see him.  He represents what is good and noble about those doing the thankless everyday jobs that most of us don't even notice until something goes wrong, something gets missed, or something stops working.

Thank you for doing what you do and for making our city run so smoothly!

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Greg Screws

 From a grateful son, brother, and student

Truman Screws coached, was a classroom teacher, a principal and retired as a superintendent.

Jean Screws was on the original faculty at Hartselle Junior High School.

Vicki Jeffreys, who took me to my first Shakespeare play, taught literature and retired as a guidance counselor.

I’ve been asked for news stories about what I am most thankful for during the Thanksgiving season.

And always teachers come to mind. Especially my parents and sister.

Teachers built the house I grew up in… and live in now.

Teachers put me got me through high school and put me through college.

The teachers at home raised me so I could leave the nest and fly.

When life didn’t go the way I planned it, those teachers helped me land in a safe spot to regroup.

Teachers don’t get thanked enough.  I really don’t see why any of them do it.

It’s certainly not for the money.

It’s certainly not for the glory.

It’s certainly not because they are thanked at all really.

I’ve often said teachers are who you want in your foxhole.

Teachers get a child to learn when they stayed up too late watching television.

Teachers teach kids who had potato chips and a soft drink for breakfast.

Teachers say no to a child who has never heard the word before.

And in these times…

Teachers ask a child where the bruises came from.

Teachers call the food bank so a hungry child can eat.

Teachers show kids how to act in a group when their parents don’t care how they act anywhere.

Teachers help a child read when no one has ever read to them before.

Teachers go to war every day for our children when people in Montgomery and Washington D.C. use them for political bargaining chips.

Teachers build, shape, and mold.

Teaching is where all professions begin.

That sign you see sometimes… “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

It should be a Law of Physics.

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Melissa Riopka

From a grateful mother

Dear Tiffany,

When you showed up for your shift at Huntsville Hospital that night, did you notice how bright the stars were?

I saw them from our backyard.

In between contractions, there came a need to be outside. To take some deep breaths. Take in the moment.

It was cool for a September night in Alabama. The sky was clear, and the stars were dazzling.

I cried because it was so beautiful and because I knew we'd soon be meeting our rainbow baby.

Did you know she was our rainbow? I don't remember if I told you.

After our son, I suffered multiple miscarriages.

We prayed.

A lot.

About the babies we lost. About whether to keep trying. Whether we shouldn't just be grateful for the family we had.

But always, there was this feeling. That someone was missing. Someone who was meant to be here but "just hadn't made it yet."

On that night in September, she decided it was time to arrive.

It was after midnight when we showed up on your floor. If you were tired, you didn't show it. You were calm, compassionate and encouraging. Oh, so encouraging.

I felt it then.  I remember it now.

And suddenly, she was here and you were handing her to me and all was right in the world. Even thinking about it now, brings a flood of peace.

Which is probably why I didn't notice at first. When the energy in the room started to shift. When a current of tension entered the conversation around us.

When I first heard the words "NICU" and "stabilization."

None of it made sense. Our baby seemed perfect to me.

When you asked if you could see her, I said, "sure."

Even as all the fear came rushing back.

The months of seeing every symptom as a sign of impending pregnancy loss. The dread before each ultrasound.  She was here but would she stay?

Then, everyone was moving and she was headed to the NICU and I was telling my husband, "go with her. Just go with her. Don't leave her."

Hours later, a pediatric heart doctor came to my hospital room. He explained our daughter had a congenital heart condition. They were doing more tests but in the meantime, I could see her.

It turned out to be a relatively rare syndrome, involving the electrical pathways of the heart.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms most often appear for the first time in the teens or 20s.

From what we've since learned, it was extremely unusual for a baby to experience an episode at birth.

You saw it, though.

Maybe not the eventual diagnosis. But a baby in distress.

And you acted. Immediately.

Maybe she would have been fine without your early intervention.  I thank the Lord that we will never have to know.

Today, it is such a gift to be able to thank you, as well.

I wish I could have told you back then. In the chaos and confusion, I never got the chance.

That was four years ago - and I am blown away, though not surprised, by all you've accomplished since.

A Master of Science degree from Georgetown University.

Dual certified as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and a Certified Nurse Midwife.

The first Certified Nurse Midwife in North Alabama.

Over the course of your career, you will help thousands of women, deliver thousands of babies.

What a difference you will make.

Thank you for the difference you've already made to us.

With all our love and gratitude,

Melissa Riopka & Family

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