“On September 11, it was a typical day,” recalled Michael Hingson.
Many people think back to 9/11 and the images are what define their memories.
“I was reaching for letterhead when I heard kind of a muffled explosion and the building began to shake,” Hingson said. “It literally began to tip going in one direction, and that was certainly not something that we would expect.”
Hingson, who was blind at birth, has a vivid memory of what he heard, felt, and felt in that first morning.
“The biggest problem I face in the world isn’t that I’m blind. It’s that because I’m blind, people don’t think I can do stuff,” Hingson said.
Hingson was about to lead a seminar in his North Tower office at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
“We were on the southside of the building on the 78th floor, the airplane hit on the 96th floor,” Hingson remembered.
Hingson got up to evacuate. Roselle, Hingson’s guide dog, was at his side.
“Roselle wasn’t giving me any indication she was nervous,” Hingson said. “We key off each other, we feed off each other, and the very fact she wasn’t nervous at all, that told me that we had time to try and evacuate in an orderly way.”
They couldn’t take the elevators so they went up the stairs.
“Almost immediately, getting to the stairs, I smelled something and I couldn’t place it, but it was familiar. It took me approximately four floors before I realized it was jet fuel,” Hingson explained.
Between them and safety, there were nearly 80 stories of staircases.
“I kept saying to Roselle, ‘Good dog, what a good girl, keep going. What a good puppy,’” Hingson said.
Later, survivors told him that Roselle and him alone encouraged them to continue.
“We saw you going down the stairs and talking to Roselle and clearly you guys didn’t have any problem with what was going on, so we followed you down the stairs,” Hingson said of what people told him.
They took 45 minutes to descend. They climbed out of the North Tower shortly afterward. The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
“A police officer yelled, ‘Get out of the way; it’s coming down right now!” Hingson said. “The best way to describe, to give you an image of it, a freight train and a waterfall. The sound of metal falling like a freight train, the glass breaking and tinkling, as well as the white noise that a waterfall making was all you could hear. With every breath I took, I could feel dirt and junk and debris going down my throat and into my lungs and settling.”
Roselle and Hingson made it safely home that day. He learned what the rest of humanity knew about terrorism only after he turned on his radio.
“It was just crazy we had no clue until then,” Hingson said.
Roselle died in 2011 Hingson published a book entitled “The Year of Roselle” in that year. Thunder DogRoselle and Roselle are the focus of the book. It became a New York Times’ best seller.
Hingson is a speaker today. giving speeches at companies and schools.
“If it would help people understand the World Trade Center, if it would help people understand blindness and guide dogs,” Hingson said of his work.
A growing number of Americans learn the 9/11 story in books or online.
“It’s not just students, if you think about it. Unless you were 7 or 8, probably even older, you really probably don’t have a lot of memories of that day,” Hingson said.
Hingson continues sharing his story because of such reasons. Two decades later, Hingson’s story has a significance that is too precious to be lost.
“As long as I have anything to say about it, I’ll tell the story and try to use it as a mechanism to teach people that we can be stronger when we collectively work together,” Hingson said.