“At 9:45, an hour after the plane hit, we finally made it out into sunlight…We were less than a hundred yards from Tower Two. A police officer yelled ‘Get out of here, it’s coming down right now!’ It became this deafening roar. You could hear the glass breaking, the metal ripping apart, things beginning to fall, everyone just turned and ran, no one was helping anyone. I turned 180 degrees and started running back the way I came. Rocks began to fall around us. We kept running. David was long gone, it was just Roselle and me. I heard a voice in my head that said ‘don’t worry about what you can’t control, focus on running with Roselle and the rest will take care of itself’. And I had that sense of peace that if Roselle and I worked together we’d be OK…We started running down Fulton Street, caught up to David! We started running again and were engulfed in that huge dust cloud…we were drowning in it.” He was, of course, running with Roselle.
Michael and Roselle escaped the fall of Tower Two. Hingson’s life was changed forever. It was as a result of his experience that day that Hingson discovered a new vocation in life as an advocate for the blind and the Guide Dogs that help them. When he talks about 9-11 the subject of fear inevitably arises. “The biggest fear that I had was something totally ironic, that suddenly the lights would go out and I’d be confronted by thousands of ‘blind’ people on the stairs who couldn’t walk and go anywhere and find their way out of a paper bag, and I would have been the only one to help them!” That sense of humour cannot be suppressed.
One of the topics Hingson covers in some of his speaking engagements is teamwork, and this incident on the stairs of Tower One must be in the top five examples of teamwork anywhere, any time. And he and Roselle were a team, a very close team. Michael sometimes talks about the team building, something that is so essential, in fact critical, in an ‘owner/Guide Dog’ relationship. Michael explains: “My responsibility is to give her good instructions, her responsibility is to carry them out and get us there safely. It is my responsibility as a member of the team to let her do her job. If she does something I don’t expect, she is doing it for a reason as far as I’m concerned. We both respect each other, we both know what we are doing and we take our jobs seriously. And for me, there’s no better proof of that than 9-11.”
Michael has been a guest on the Larry King Live Show five times, the first very shortly after 9-11, the second on the first anniversary of 9-11. This second interview, Michael Hingson on Larry King Live is still available on YouTube. King asked Michael about his job at the World Trade Center, and Michael told him that he worked for Quantum Storage Solutions Group, managing the New York and New Jersey office. King asked if it was difficult for him to do the job without sight. Michael responded: “No, it was no different for me I think than anyone else, I used different tools but still did the same job. I managed the sales force…I had no problems.”
About information generally Hingson says, “I learned that as a blind person I can function. I can do things in the world just like you can. You use your eyesight to get information, I use alternative methods to get information, but I get the information. And so I can function just like you can function.” About information presented in an audio format he says, “The audio information is extremely valuable to people. And I wish that we would do more to ensure that in everything that we did we would provide that audio information. It will help more than just the low incidence disability numbers of blind people which is about 1.8 million. There are so many other people who would perhaps just remember that one thing that they heard that would help…Most of us see and don’t think about doing it any other way…you will help other people…One sensory modality isn’t enough for any of us.”
About DAISY books, Michael says, “I have been using DAISY books ever since I received my first Victor Classic while delivering a speech to the staff of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic in 2003.” Hingson is now an independent consultant and President of The Michael Hingson Group. One of his customers is Guide Dogs for the Blind which is starting up a project to provide Streams to students and graduates at a greatly reduced price. These Streams will contain a great deal of material including the various lectures, (audio and text copies), all in DAISY format. Hingson is creating the DAISY files. All material which can be converted to DAISY will be in that format. A HumanWare representative (HumanWare is the Victor Stream developer) says this is the first time they have seen the Stream significantly integrated into a curriculum in an educational environment.
One final thought provoking quote from Michael: “Change can be an adventure. You have to be able to move on, to get on with your life, to deal with change in a positive way. You have to be able to cope with change.”
True life-affirmers are a rare breed. Michael Hingson is most definitely a life-affirmer. This is only part of his ‘story’, he has much, much more to tell.
The Michael Hingson Group is located in Novato, California. Information on Michael’s speaking topics, his availability, and his consulting services on Diversity and Access Technology for people who are blind or visually impaired is available Michael’s Web site at: http://www.michaelhingson.com.
Afterword – about Roselle
Roselle has been inducted into the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association Hall of Fame, and has received a number of awards for her teamwork with Michael on September 11, 2001. She was awarded the Dickin Medal from Britain for her devotion to duty. The medal is recognized worldwide as “the animals’ Victoria Cross” (in American terms, the animal equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor). Roselle was also awarded the Kennel Club 2002 Ace Award for Service Dog of the Year. Several years ago she developed a blood disorder and took an early retirement. Michael has no proof but is quite certain that the disorder is a result of the toxic fumes and dust she inhaled on that horrendous day in 2001.
Michael Hingson’s speech: California Blood Bank Society Convention