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A BART-Built Family
Rosa Solorzano's father was a BART operator, and his job built their middle class family.

By Rosa Solorzano

I was raised riding BART. My father, Alvaro Mauricio Solorzano, landed a job with Bay Area Rapid Transit when I was a small child in the late '70s and worked there until his death in 1997.

My father left his home in Nicaragua as a teen, arriving in San Francisco in the early '60s. After serving in Vietnam he returned to Managua to regroup, where he met my mother. In 1977 they returned to the Bay Area for good. I was three years old.

In those early years we bounced around, with stops in the Mission, Daly City and Pacifica. When my father got his job with BART, it brought stability. We purchased a home in the East Bay suburb of Pittsburg, which was then bisected by a two-lane highway and surrounded by cow pastures. For my father, it was the American Dream.

Not long after my parents purchased their home, tensions between BART management and employees resulted in a three-month strike. I remember my father at the dinner table telling us, his small children, that we should never cross a picket line.

He often worked holidays and took extra shifts -- my mother would tease him because he was always in uniform, "just in case" BART called. When I visited him at work with my older sister and little brother, he'd introduce us to his friends and let us ride in the front of the train. We'd honk the horn as the train drove through the Transbay tube. To us, Papi was not a train operator -- he owned BART.

My father's salary and benefits afforded us a middle class lifestyle.  BART paid for my braces, Catholic school family road trips and eventually helped finance a university education for me and my siblings.

It's been 16 years since his passing, and I now have a family of my own. Like so many others in the Bay Area, we would suffer the inconvenience of a BART strike. My commute is grueling even without one. But thinking of my father and the life he provided us, I'll get up early and do what it takes to make it work.

And I'll do it gladly.

With a Perspective, I'm Rosa Solorzano.

Rosa Solorzano is a clinical social worker, wife and mother to two small children. She lives in Oakland and commutes daily to San Francisco.

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