Michael Hingson has been blind since birth due to a disease called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). In his infancy, doctors suggested his parents send him to a home for the blind, where they could take better care of him. Michael’s parents, however, decided that they would love and raise him in the same way they raised his older brother, Ellery. This decision gave Michael the chance to find his own way in the world, and he’d eventually land a managerial job at the Twin Towers.
On September 11, 2001, Michael and his guide dog, Roselle, started their day in New Jersey. Michael woke up a little earlier than usual to prepare for a breakfast and a presentation scheduled later that morning. They rode a taxi to a New Jersey Transit station, caught a train and then transferred to a PATH train headed for the underground concourse at the World Trade Center.
Michael was working as regional sales manager and head of operations for Quantum/ATL, a data-protection agency, on the 78th floor of the North Tower. Michael set up the conference room for their breakfast meeting as Roselle took her position near the door to greet people.
Moments later, when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Roselle was sleeping at Michael’s feet underneath his desk. As the tower swayed and a loud boom rattled the office, Roselle remained very calm, which Michael said made him feel like he was in no imminent danger. The pair proceeded to walk down 78 flights of stairs together and successfully evacuated the building before its collapse at 10:28 a.m.
In 2011, Michael published their story in Thunder Dog: The Story of a Blind Man, a Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. He is now an experienced public speaker focusing on leadership, inclusion, disabilities, and other subjects. He also serves as ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind.
Roselle passed away on June 26, 2011, with Michael and his wife, Karen, by her side. They subsequently formed Roselle’s Dream Foundation in her honor; the nonprofit charity educates people on blindness and assists blind children and adults in obtaining technology to help them navigate the world around them.
On September 11, 2020, Michael will share his story, along with five other speakers, as part of this year’s fifth annual Anniversary in the Schools webinar. Register for this free program here.
The webinar is made possible thanks to generous support from The New York Life Foundation.
By Nicole Torres, Education Specialist