Thursday, July 7, 2022

Thunder Dog Book Review

 


8:46 a.m. Michael Hingson, along with his faithful guide dog, Roselle, had been experiencing a normal morning at work. And then, suddenly and violently, their building was rocked by a massive explosion. Everything began to sway and tilt at a severe angle. Debris rained down on them. What was happening? 

No one knew yet that American Airlines Flight 11 had just slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 500 miles per hour. With 10,000 gallons of fuel on board, everything was soon engulfed by flames, smoke, shattering glass, and dangerous fuel mist. Michael, blind since infancy, knew something was very wrong, but he took comfort in the fact that Roselle was completely calm. 

Though surrounded by chaos, and screaming, panicked people, Roselle did not act afraid. Michael knew they needed to head to the staircase and make their way out. It would be no simple thing, as they were on the 78th floor of Tower One. Safety was 1,463 steps away. There was only one thing to do: Give Roselle her command. Forward.

It would ultimately take an hour to get to Ground Zero and out the door to what they hoped would be their escape. As they took step after step after step, burn victims passed them in a hurry to get the medical help they needed. Firemen, and other emergency personnel, though rushing up the stairs to help other victims, paused to see if Michael and Roselle needed assistance. 

Shortly after exiting the first twin tower, the second tower, just 100 yards from them, began to collapse. Michael and Roselle ran for their lives, choking desperately for air, as an atom bomb-like cloud of dust surrounded them. The nightmare seemed never-ending. It would be hours before survivors could even begin to make their way to loved ones.

Lives were forever changed on 9/11. Because this day will always be one of our nation's most memorable, and important days, Michael Hingson and Roselle's story, as told in Thunder Dog, is one that needs to be heard. Not only is there healing in telling our stories, but their story is much more than an account of making the descent out of the World Trade Center. 

The real story is the ascent story: How Hingson and Roselle rose to be there in the first place. How does a blind man and a yellow lab end up living successfully in a world that is not always set up to support a thriving life? What are the lessons we can learn from them? Michael shares with us the vital messages of trust, of faith, of the importance of working together. These themes are especially timely as our nation continues to be in crisis.

Thunder Dog helped me gain a greater perspective and understanding of what it means to be disabled. In some ways, we are all disabled. It was incredibly enlightening for me to learn more about how differently abled individuals navigate through the challenges, and opportunities, presented every single day. I was astounded by Michael Hingson's adaptability (especially his use of echolocation) and full of admiration for how his family supported Michael's growth and actualization into his current fullness of being.

And, of course, I so respect those who pour themselves into the nurturing and training of guide dogs. What an amazing journey that is. Roselle, rightfully, has earned numerous awards and accolades for her exceptional service to humanity. Well done, Roselle. Good girl!

I will end with one of Michael's quotes that spoke to me: Don't let your sight get in the way of your vision. May we all take that to heart as we learn to see with the kind of wisdom that makes a true difference for others. We are all in this together.





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12 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very inspiring story.

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    1. Very much so. I think this one would speak to you, Mary Beth.

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  2. I can't even imagine being blind and in one of the towers on Sept. 11. You would have no way of knowing what was happening, where you could safely step. What a awesome puppy! Amazing that she was not frantic. I wouldn't think that would be the kind of event that guide dogs would be trained to handle. She must be an exceptional dog. btw, I love the quote! I'm sure this is a great book with a lot of wisdom if we just take to time to think and evaluate our own lives while reading. Thank you for the recommendation.

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    1. It's true that Roselle was never prepped for danger and chaos of this magnitude (though guide dogs are exposed to as much as possible during their training). Given that she was terrified of thunder, it is quite amazing that Roselle took this situation in stride and did her job with great confidence. She was an extraordinary dog. There was one point in the escape, during the collapse of the South Tower, that Michael and Roselle had to guide sighted individuals because they were rendered "blind" by the immense dust cloud that engulfed them. It took the keenly honed senses of Michael and Roselle to guide others down into a subway area where there was better air to breathe. As Michael said: It was literally the blind leading the blind.

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  3. What an inspirational and terrifying situation all at the same time. I love that quote at the end as well "Don't let your sight get in the way of your vision" - profound. Truth! To be blind, I can't imagine, and honestly moved by those who use their disability in ways that surpass many of us.

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    1. It seems Michael and Roselle were the calmest individuals during the terror of this disaster. What is especially beautiful is how they continued to touch countless lives around the world after the dust settled. Michael continues to share his powerful insights through his professional services and business offerings. It's hard to see him as disabled because he has so many superpowers.

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  4. Superpowers, indeed. Michael must be an exceptional individual. And Roselle had to have been an amazing guide dog. I agree that those who train guide dogs deserve deep respect as they are sending these dogs out to be a special part of the lives they serve. I'm convinced that without Roselle, Michael would not have survived that fateful day.

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    1. Everything you said is so right on. Michael has had a number of different guide dogs over the course of his life, but he considers Roselle the most special of them all. I think the hardest thing, when I have considered fostering a guide dog in training, would be giving the puppy up at the end of his or her first year of socialization. In one way it would feel right and good, but my heart would break at the same time. It takes a very special family/person to nurture someone else's guide dog (someone incredibly unselfish).

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  5. Diana, this sounds like an incredibly special book about not only an extraordinary man and his equally extraordinary guide dog, but so much more! I’m sure that reading it will be terrifying, sad, uplifting and inspiring. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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    1. It is all of those things and more. It made me reflect on the whole experience of 9/11. I relived my memories and feelings from that time, which isn't a bad thing. I remember how that experience pulled Americans so tightly together. The unity was the best part of the tragedy (other than the survivors and heroics of rescue workers).

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  6. What an inspiring book! This demonstrates the amazing and beautiful partnership between a guide dog and its owner. I cannot imagine the utterly terrifying circumstances they found themselves in. I have had the privilege of meeting several guide dogs and their owners and the training equips them for many circumstances but this escape and helping others along the way is extraordinary. I think this is a book I would love and need to read.

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    1. The bond with a guide dog is almost surely one of the greatest of relationships. I have no doubt that the carefully selected and nurtured temperaments of these one-in-a-million dogs has much to do with their exceptional capacity for rising to any occasion. Roselle took her job very seriously even in situations that she did not especially enjoy. The extensive training they receive takes great dedication from all (dog and humans alike). I do hope you get to read Thunder Dog. Let me know what you think afterwards.

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