One of the things I’ve always loved most about living in Troy — aside, of course, from the high school football games — is the fact it feels like, for better or worse, we are one big family.
I grew up with two brothers and two sisters, so I know a thing or two about big families. I know it’s not always going to be a “Brady Bunch” episode. Things don’t always wrap up in a tidy, 30-minute episode (or even a two-part thriller, such as when the Brady family went to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon).
Sometimes being a part of a big family (or even a small family, I reckon) can be messy. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a family happen. You disagree. You argue. You fight. You carry grudges that sometimes last for years. You make fun of one another. You convince the youngest brother he was adopted from a Cambodian refugee camp (that actually may be specific to just my family).
But, at the end of the day, you are still a family. And deep down, that still means something. When tragedy or hardship comes around, you circle the wagons and you lean on one another to get through the tough times. The guy you gave a black eye last week is the same guy who is wrapping his arms around you the next.
I’ve been thinking about that family concept as it applies to Troy quite a bit in the past few weeks.
Civic leaders are sometimes forced to make tough decisions that aren’t always going to make everyone in our civic family happy. They have to decide where to put bike lanes. They have to make improvements to various city-owned facilities that end up costing a great deal of money. They have to adjust traffic patterns around the streets we’ve been traversing for decades. Sometimes, even things that would seem like a small deal on the surface — such as selecting a new city logo and motto — get built up into very big deals.
That’s part of the job when it comes to being a part of a family. The bigger the family, the harder it is to appease everyone — or, as it may seem in some cases — anyone. But in the end, tough decisions have to be made. And when they are, we do what families do. We fight. We bicker. We argue. We’ll even say things we sometimes regret.
I’m as guilty of that as anyone. As much as I love this city I’ve lived in my entire life, I don’t agree with every decision that is made. In fact, sometimes I disagree pretty vehemently with the decisions that are made. But then I look around and realize that while things will never be perfect in my eyes, there’s still no place else I’d rather be.
And that’s because this town, its leaders and its residents are all part of my family. And when times seem toughest, I know my Trojan family will pull together and we will look after our own.
I was reminded of this last week as I stood at the corner of South Market Street and Race Street watching first responder vehicles pull out of the Troy Fire Station, leading the funeral procession for fallen firefighter Jason Holfinger. Having worked downtown for the past 22 years, I know how the area is usually a raucous cacophony of noise throughout the day.
When the Tanker 1 firetruck turned onto Market Street carrying Holfinger’s flag-draped coffin, however, I have never in my life heard downtown Troy so quiet. All of the traffic came to a stop. Dozens of residents stood sentry along Market, some holding their hands over their hearts, many more with tears streaming down their faces. It was as if the world had stopped turning for just a few minutes.
There was no fighting. No arguing. No resentment. There simply were dozens of people paying their respects to a hero. I’m guessing many of the people who stood there had never met Jason Holfinger and didn’t know him personally. They didn’t need to. All they knew is he was one of us. They knew he had spent his adulthood putting his life on the line for each and every one of us, regardless of any disagreements we may have with him. He was there to serve his community, no questions asked. He was a proud Troy firefighter who was taken from us too soon.
He was a part of our family. And when times are toughest, that always matters more than anything else.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong