Eighteen years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks. However, Michael Hingson still remembers how his guide dog bravely helped him and several other people escape the North Tower as everything collapsed around them.
Michael, who was born without sight, was then working as a sales manager for Quantum, a Fortune 500 company. His guide dog, a yellow Labrador named Roselle, had been with Hingson since 1999, accompanying him to his office on the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
On that fateful day, a booming sound interrupted the sales manager’s work. And then, suddenly, Michael and his colleagues felt the structure tipping over approximately 20 feet.
The building was slowly righting itself when chaos erupted. There was burning debris falling outside. Michael could smell the smoke and hear the frightened screams of people all around him.
Thankfully, he and Roselle were unperturbed. They both knew something horrible was going on, but they remained calm. Michael gave the Labrador the command to go forward, and she led him and his colleagues to the nearest stairway.
While walking down the stairs, rubble was falling on Roselle’s body, but she kept her mind on her task. Michael heard a babble of anxious voices around him as they escaped the building.
The voices belonged to people who had no idea what to do. But when they saw the Labrador confidently leading what was then just a small group, they decided to follow her.
Soon, Michael detected the odor of something like kerosene. Having traveled around the world, he instantly recognized it — jet fuel. That’s when he realized that a plane must have collided against the North Tower.
Then Michael realized that the lights could go out anytime. He describes New Yorkers as a hardy bunch, but panic would instantly spread if they could no longer see anything in front of them.
Hence, Michael reassured the group that in case that happens, they needn’t worry. He and Roselle were there to guide all of them to safety.
The thought of a blind man leading a group down the burning North Tower elicited a few giggles. However, they must have seen sense in Michael’s statement because their mood lightened a bit.
Almost an hour after they started their descent, the group finally reached the lobby. But they weren’t out of the woods yet. A few minutes later, authorities were warning everyone to get as far away from the building, which was collapsing onto itself.
Michael and Roselle started running, a single goal in mind — survival. They didn’t stop until they reached a subway station where they caught their breath, relatively unscathed.
The fur dad eventually left sales to work with Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization that matched him with Roselle. The smart and courageous Labrador passed away in 2011, but she continues to be an inspiration.
Michael now works as a public speaker, incorporating his experiences with the guide dog and his blindness into his talks on how anyone can become a great leader. Watch him with Roselle here: