Humbled by personal events that led me to excruciatingly difficult choices. I drove into the darkness knowing the lives around me would never be the same.
After landing in Dublin about a half hour away over the hill, I started to rebuild my life. While I knew in my heart I was making the right decision, I also could feel every moment the pain my choice inflicted in others.
With time, much of the pain had eased, though the guilt lingered showing little sign of lessoning. Choices previously made brought both personal happiness and the constant reminder that our choices severely impact those we love.
Despair eventually turned to hope as dreams long ago forgotten were realized. Love, having been but a fantasy, was now a reality taking hold of my being.
Where once there was only darkness, there was light. Hope trumped despair, and simple existing turned to living.
Having found the love my life had lacked, there was but one more thing I needed to do. Something that was more important than anything I will do in my life.
I needed to return to Tracy in hopes that a father could repair the damage caused to his daughter.
Driving down Interstate 580, the sun high in the sky behind me tricked me into believing spring had arrived early. My truck was piled high with the few possessions I had accumulated over the past year. I climbed the Altamont heading to the town I called home for close to 20 years.
Having loved my time in Dublin, my return to Tracy is with mixed emotions. Hoping that being near will help us move closer to where we were, is indeed priceless. But it is difficult being back in Tracy as it continues to regress, as it struggles to get back to where it was once.
When I moved to Tracy in 1994, it was a town on the rise. While the economy was slow, there was moderate growth. There were signs of life as new businesses arrived and first-time home buyers made the trek over the Altamont Pass in search of an affordable suburban community to raise their children in.
Over the next 10 years, Tracy really came alive. New soccer and softball fields, a mall, new chain restaurants and new communities sprang up all over town.
Tracy was a safe, up-and-coming,
family-oriented little city. I was proud to call Tracy home.
Sadly, starting with the downturn in the economy, Tracy began to struggle. The consequences of inflated home prices, greed and unscrupulous lending practices drove home values down, flooding the market with foreclosures in record numbers.
In only months, all that Tracy seemed to have gained over the past decade had sunken into the deep abyss of vacant houses-littered neighborhoods. Homeowners picked up and left, leaving behind weed-covered, dilapidated houses that were once pride-filled homes.
No longer a town made up of young families migrating in search of reasonably priced new homes, Tracy was transformed into a town suddenly appearing as a haven for transients to set up shop at every intersection.
Crime soared with gang violence, murders and almost-daily reports of shootings.
While many reasons can be attributed to the decline of Tracy, my hope is that there are efforts being spent revitalizing the city.
I have come back to Tracy not looking in the rearview mirror for reasons why my relationship with my daughter has landed on rough times. I have returned to Tracy to simply work on making it better.
As I become even more involved with her life, perhaps coaching her soccer team again and just being the father figure every child needs, I hope to get us back to where we were.
My hope is that while I repair things with my daughter, Tracy will start making strides to plug the holes that have been sinking this town faster than the sponsor list for Rush Limbaugh’s show.
Tracy needs to get a plan to deal with the explosion of vagrancy, to take a hard line with the gang activity and, more importantly, to incentivize potential business owners and new home buyers to come to Tracy.
Not too long ago, Tracy was an attractive option for families looking for that suburban life they dreamed of. With some thoughtful planning and policies in place, Tracy can once again get back to where it was.
With the sunlight gleaming through the windshield of my truck, I made my way over the Altamont, returning home. Returning for my kids, returning for me, and returning for Tracy.
• Brian Williams first moved to Tracy in 1993 and returned to town in 2012 after a brief hiatus in Dublin.