On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Michael Hingson was working at his desk on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower when he heard a loud boom.
Underneath his desk, Hingson’s guide dog, Roselle, snoozed. Hingson, who is completely blind, decided they should move and softly told Roselle, “Forward.”
Together, Hingson and Roselle maneuvered down 78 flights of stairs, through confusion, noise and smoke, escaping the tower before it collapsed.
In the days and weeks that followed the terrorist attack, Hingson’s story captured the attention of Americans and eventually became the basis for his bestselling book, Thunder Dog.
On Tuesday, Hingson will share his story at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History as part of the museum’s commemoration of the 15th anniversary of 9-11. Hingson said he will discuss the importance of teamwork and unity, while bemoaning the lack of both in today’s political culture.
“After 9-11, we were very unified as a country. For America to be strong, we need that unity. Unfortunately, our trust has eroded. In some ways, we are weaker today than before,” he said in an interview with the Star-Telegram.
“We are the most powerful and strong country in the world. We need to use our influence to spread peace and inclusion, not hatred.”
Hingson, who worked in sales for a technology company on Sept. 11, returned to his native California in 2002 and began speaking to groups across the United States and beyond. In 2011, his dog, Roselle, died of a disease in which the immune system attacks platelets in blood cells, which he said might been caused by ingesting toxins on 9/11.
“It was an emotional time for all of us. Roselle was a hero,” he said. “She had become such a big part of our family.”
Born blind, Hingson said he tries to dispel misconceptions about blindness during his speeches. He now serves as a board member on the Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering clients to lead a full life by achieving their highest level of independence.
“My blindness does not define me,” he said. “The choices and decisions I make in life define me.”
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