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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