A Concord man wrongfully imprisoned finally gets to celebrate the holidays a free man.

This Thursday will be Ronnie Long’s first Thanksgiving dinner at home in decades.

“Whatever she prepares I sit down with it and eat it. That’s just the way we rocking this Thanksgiving,” Long said.

The 65-year-old was released from prison in late August after spending 44 years locked up for a rape he didn’t commit.

In the months since his release, he’s spent his days adjusting to life on the outside.

“To just sit here without being supervised, without being under the gun, without somebody telling you everything, every move that you need to make and what time you need to make that move, it’s overwhelming,” Long said.

Long said when he was behind bars, he couldn’t see this far.

“The conditions that I was under, I was like a walking dead man,” Long said.

The courts vacated Long’s conviction and dropped charges. Now he’s holding out for a pardon from the governor and compensation for what the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals described as egregious and continuous police misconduct.

“I’m going to give you a little brief example on what it’s like. When you go home, I want you all to take your mattress and put it in your bathroom, in your bathtub. I want you to shut the door and stay in there for 44 years,” Long said.

His hope this holiday season is that no one else is ever put in his position.

“I’m not angry, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in a system I feel that done failed me and a lot of other people,” said Long.

Long says he has lots of family eager to spend Thanksgiving with him, but because of COVID-19 it will just be he and his wife this year.