Who knew that one person could change your whole life? Who thought that someone's words could inspire you to be who you are? My uncle did. I am who I am today because of him.
Since the day I appeared in this world, my uncle has watched me and grown with me, and taught me right from wrong. He has shared stories of what inspired him and now it is my turn to share mine.
Uncle Paul is the closest family member I have. He is the smartest man I know and understands everything that I tell him. He has taught me that independence comes only with years of mistakes. He is never afraid to make mistakes because he learns from them.
My uncle was the one who taught me how to drive. I will never forget those first few minutes in his big blue Ford Expedition. I thought he was joking when he told me to get in the driver's seat. Once I did, he helped me relax and told me how to take control of the car. He joked around, trying to ease my nerves. At the end of the lesson, he told me I wasn't a very good driver but he was ready to show me more any time I wanted to try.
He is also a man who put his life on the line in an effort to get people out of the World Trade Center on September 11. That day, I thought I was going to lose him because when I called him, there was no answer. A day later, I finally got to talk to him. My uncle worked on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center. When the plane hit, he was on the seventh floor helping a woman out of the tower who was suffering from an asthma attack. He got out and ran as far as he could from the building. Twenty minutes later the building collapsed. He told me he had a few cuts and bruises from the falling debris, but what hurt him most was that he was not able to help more people and that he lost close friends.
I was so touched by his descriptions of that day that it was all I could think about for a month. It was my choice for every assignment I wrote because I wasn't even able to imagine how upset I would be if something like that happened to me.
Less than a week later, I called the house looking forward to talk to my uncle but my aunt explained that he was at work. Suddenly I realized how strong he really was. He lost 300 coworkers and friends from his company; he could have been one of them and he had been so heartbroken, yet he didn't want to quit doing what he does. He wanted to prove to others, and himself, that he's not weak.
My uncle gives me courage. He knows how shy I can be, but when I got to high school, he encouraged me to let everyone see the person he sees, and I did.
I recall his voice on that day at the beach, nervously shouting for me to stop the car. He gives me a smirk, the same one he always gives me; he wants to criticize me but instead he smiles and tells me what a good lesson it was, because he loves me that much!
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.