An Influential Person

Influence can be defined as the effect one person has on another. It is the power of a person’s compelling force on the actions, behavior and opinions of others. I consider myself fortunate because there are many people in my life that have impacted me in a positive way. One person in particular is my grandfather. He has taught me to be humble yet proud, respectful and strong, but most of all dedicated and courageous.

As one of the most important role models in my life, my grandfather has proven to be a man of great character, not always through his words but through his actions. I am proud to say that my grandfather was a New York City Firefighter for forty-two years. Through his work, he has shown me the heroism of his selfless dedication to the people of this city. He has always stressed the importance of education and has taught me to try my best at all times. Although I was only three years old on September 11, 2001, the impact that day had on our family will forever be with all of us. My grandfather lost a lot of friends that day, most of who he considered brothers. He worked tirelessly for months searching for his brothers without any complaints, only a deep sense of sadness and loss. With thirty-eight years already on the fire department he could have easily retired, instead he remained with more determination behind him. Part of it was because he couldn’t bring himself to leave the job he loved under those circumstances. Another part was his commitment to his fellow firefighters and insuring the proper training of the hundreds of new firefighters the city now needed. With his years of experience, he became a leader to the probationary firefighters who looked up to him and learned all they could from him. His strength got him through an incredibly difficult time.

In May of 2005, on his sixty-fifth birthday, he was forced to retire and depart from a job he truly loved. He hated to leave and still misses it to this day. Instead of hanging around missing his work, he decided to become a volunteer and help an organization called Friends of Firefighters. He went back to school, became a trained counselor and now helps his brothers, both active and retired, on a daily basis. He mentors, listens, counsels, shares his experiences and even cooks them breakfast. The Friends of Firefighters office is located in an old firehouse, which he feels right at home in. He is helping to give back to a brotherhood that he considers family.

As you can see, through his unselfish acts, my grandfather has taught me to understand the importance of education and the significance of family. He is not one for long winded lectures; rather he has led and educated me through his example. He has inspired me to be a better person, study hard, be proud of myself, help others and lead by example. The trait that has impacted my life the most is the integrity my grandfather exhibits with me, the rest of my family and those people who are lucky enough to meet him. He is the man that I aspire to be one day and I am proud to call him my grandfather.

-Paul Pellegrino, grandson of Tony Cat, retired FDNY and volunteer with FoF