Episode 1 – Unstoppable Mindset
Michael Hingson, shares his Keynote speech created on October 3 2019 at an event sponsored by San Joaquin County Office of Education, CEDR Systems help in Monte Ray, CA. There were nearly 1,000 people in attendance at this keynote address delivered by Mr. Hingson to kick off the 2019 Inclusion Collaborative conference. In this presentation, Mike Hingson discussed his life experiences as a student who happened to be blind. He discussed some of the challenges he faced as well as how he prepared to overcome them. As a major part of this talk and our inaugural podcast episode, Mike tells his story of emergency preparation and how he was able to use his knowledge and his unstoppable mindset to survive the terrorist attack on Tower One of the World Trade Center.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit: https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is an Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast we’re inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:19
I really am honored to be here. I am, I guess in a sense, a product of special education in California. Let me tell you a little bit about me. In all seriousness, I was born in 1950, February 24 1950. You can do the math. Yes, I’m 69. People say I don’t sound it. So I’m very happy about that. And I hope that that continues for a long time. But I was born sighted. But I was born two months premature. And the result of that was that I was put in an incubator with a pure oxygen environment. You’ve probably heard something about what today is called retinopathy of prematurity, which back in the day, I don’t where that expression came from, but it was called retro dentro fibro pleasure. It was something that was discovered and named by Dr. Arnold Patz at the Wilmer Eye Institute. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago before he passed, and we discussed what was originally called rlf, which is now our LP, but the bottom line is, is I was put in an incubator, the retina malformed and I became blind after about two days. We didn’t know that for a while. I certainly didn’t know it, but my parents didn’t know it. About four months after I was born, an aunt said to my mother, you know, he’s not really reacting to sunlight. I wonder if there’s something wrong with his eyes? Well, sure enough, we went to the hospital and the doctors eventually came out and said, PSC is blind, you can’t see. And you should send him to a home because you shouldn’t keep him with you. If you do, he will not be good for your family. He’ll certainly make it harder for your older son who can see who was two years old, you should send him to home. My father had an eighth grade education. My mother had a high school diploma and they told the learning Medical Society in Chicago nuts, too, you were taking him home. The doctor said he’ll never be able to contribute to society and they said sure he will. It doesn’t matter if he’s blind or not. What matters is what he learns. These people who certainly didn’t have the the vast knowledge of the learned medical profession in Chicago, bucked the system, I did go home. I was born on the south side of Chicago.
Michael Hingson 03:47
If we if we take geraldo rivera into account two blocks from Al Capone’s private vault, but I was born in Chicago, I grew up there for five years, went to the candy store when I was old enough to do it with my brother and cousins, who lived next door every day and walked around the neighborhood and so on and did it just like anyone else. I never even thought about it because my parents didn’t think about it. They were risk takers, although I’m sure they didn’t think of it that way. But they were they let me go outside and be a part of the rest of the kids in the neighborhood and growing up. They although I didn’t know it early on, were a part of a group of parents who fought for special education classes for blind kids see, there were a number of premature births. During the baby boomer era, it actually brought the average age of blind people down from 67 to 65. Because there were so many, but there were enough in Chicago, my parents fought with other parents for special education classes. Well, kindergarten starts at age of four in Chicago. And so at four years old, I went to Korea In the garden in a special class with a teacher who was going to teach me and a bunch of other blind kids something about school, I actually began to learn Braille in kindergarten. I remember I wish I still had it. I remember, she, in teaching me Braille said, the best way for you to learn Braille is to write something. I’m going to read you a story about nasturtiums. Anybody know how to spell illustrations, I don’t remember. But I had to write the story down that was in what was called grade one or uncontracted Braille. I had learned grade two yet, but I learned the Braille alphabet in kindergarten, hello. And then my father was offered a job in Southern California and we moved to California, Palmdale, California. And the problem with moving to Palmdale, California was that there were no provisions at all for blind or any other kinds of kids with what we call today’s disabilities, or special needs, or whatever you politically want to call it. I’m not really a great fan of political correctness. So let me be real blunt, I am blind, I’m not vision impaired, I don’t have a visual handicap, I am blind. By the way, I am trying to help start a movement, what I am not is visually impaired. The last time I checked, being blind didn’t have any effect on how you looked. So visually impaired really doesn’t count. If you’re going to do it, vision impaired is more accurate than visually impaired because I really probably would look the same. If I am blind or sighted. We’ll deal with the glasses later. I normally don’t wear glasses, but that’s another story and we’ll get to it. vision impaired I understand visually impaired really is ridiculous. But it’s the term that people have used. So you need to help us change the habit. But in reality, I am blind. Let me define blind. A person is blind when they lose enough of their eyesight that they have to use. Let me rephrase that, that they will use alternative techniques to eyesight in order to accomplish tasks, whether it be reading or whatever, yes, you can get very thick lens glasses or CCTVs, and so on, to help a person use their eyesight to read, but they’re blind by any standard of intelligence. If you think about it, they are blind, not that they don’t have any eyesight, but they have to use alternative techniques. And they don’t have to use eyesight. I have been in environments I’ve been involved in projects as an adult, where I’ve been in special education, schools where we’ve been discussing how to teach Braille reading and so on. And I’ve had teachers who would come up to me and talk about the fact that they have kids who are blind and kids who have some eyesight. They’re legally blind, but not totally blind. Sally has some eyesight Johnny doesn’t have any Sally gets to reprint Johnny has to read Braille.
Michael Hingson 08:05
That attitude is so backward, or it should be considered backward. The problem is Sally may get to reprint, but she’s going to have headaches, she’s going to read very slow. And if Johnny gets to truly learn Braille, he’s going to be reading at several 100 words a minute, while Sally is kind of poking along, and having headaches and not doing very well. I have no problem with children or adults using their eyes. If they have eyesight, I do have a problem with them not also having the opportunity to learn the techniques that blind people use. Because if they learn those techniques, then you they can use both worlds to live much more productive lives. And so for those of you who are special ed teachers, even if your children have some eyesight, and even if the parents resist, try to push back, they need to learn Braille. A lot of special education teachers have said to me well, but blind people don’t need Braille anymore. It’s passe. You can listen to books and so on. You’ve got recordings we’ve now got Of course, files and you can use synthetic speech to hear the books read. Yeah, listen to one of those books with synthetic speech and see how much you enjoy it. But But yes, it’s available. But my question to any of those people is tell me why you still teach sighted kids to read print? My they could watch cartoons, they could watch TV? Why do they need to learn to read print? The bottom line is blindness isn’t the problem that I face. The problem I face consists truly of the attitudes and misconceptions that people have about blindness and it still comes back down to the fact that in reality people think That blind people can’t truly be as productive in society as people who can see. Ah, and I wanted to do something before we go on how many heroes special ed teachers? Let me just see. Alright, how many are HR people? All right, a few of you get it. So I’m going to stop right now and say for those of you who didn’t clap, how many of you think it’s bright when a lecturer asks you a question and they’re blind that you raise your hands? And you prove my point. So the bottom line is blindness isn’t the problem. There are so many people in the world who are blind who have accomplished every bit as much if not more than most people in society, because they’ve learned that eyesight isn’t really the gating factor. The gating factor are our attitudes about blindness. Jacob Salatin was a cardiologist who didn’t live a long life. I think he died at 36. He was in the early he lived in the early 1900s. He was blind. And he was one of the most famous heart doctors in the Chicago area. There’s a book about him called the good doctor, you gotta try to find it and read it. It’s fascinating read. There are so many others. Jacobus tenbroek, was the founder of the National Federation of the Blind. He was born in Canada, but lost his eyesight at the age of seven lived most of his life in the United States. Dr. Tim Brooke, was taught by Dr. Newell Perry in in Albany at the School for the Blind at that time, and learned that in fact, he could do whatever he chose to do blindness was the problem. Dr. Tim Brooke went through the standard education courses and eventually had I had taken lectureships in at the University of California at Berkeley, did his undergraduate work there, he wanted to go into law. But when he graduated, and expressed that interest, the school said, No, you can’t because a blind person can’t do that. You could get a degree in psychology, you can get your PhD in psychology. But you can’t get a law degree because blind people can’t do that way too much reading way too complicated. So Dr. Tim Britt bowed to the pressure and got his degree in psychology, and then was hired to teach at UC Berkeley.
Michael Hingson 12:29
I don’t remember the exact year but somewhere along the line, he was asked to chair the speech department at the University of California at Berkeley. Now Dr. Tim Brooke, who was by then married to his wife, Hazel was pretty bright guy and kind of guy. Dr. Hambrick, accepted the position and said to the entire university, I want faculty members to join my speech department. But if you’re going to join this department, what you need to understand is that you have to undertake a discipline, different from your discipline of education. So if you’re a physicist, for example, and you want to join my department, you got to do research on something other than physics, you can tie it back to physics, but you have to do something other than physics is your main effort of work in our department. Well, Dr. Turmeric was one of these guys who believed in practicing what he preached, what do you think that he decided to do his discipline on? Dr. temperate became one of the foremost constitutional law scholars of the 20th century. There are still many cases that use his treatise is on tort law. And many examples of his works on discrimination and so on, are used today. In 1940, he formed with others, the National Federation of the Blind, the largest organization of blind people, consumers in the United States. And we don’t have time to go into a lot of his work. But the point is, it didn’t matter that he was buying, he did get to law. And he did it in a roundabout way. But he did it in a way that the university had to accept. And they loved him for it, in fact that Dr. Tim Burke was one of the few people in California who has ever been asked by both political parties to run for the United States Senate. And that happened after senator Claire angle, had a stroke and and he obviously could not continue as a senator and passed away. Dr. Tamarack was asked by both parties to run and he refused. Because he was enjoying his work with the National Federation of the Blind. He was involved in forming the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley and so on and doing so much constitutional law work. He knew that’s what he needed to do. blindness isn’t the problem. And so the question that all of you need to consider is are you going to hold people back? Or are you going to truly embrace a positive philosophy That says bind people bind students can do whatever they choose. And we’re going to challenge them just like we would challenge any other student. And we’re going to challenge them to do the best that they can truly do. And we’re going to help teach them what they need. And sometimes that’s going to mean you need to do as much work to educate parents. Because parents are frightened. They don’t know. They’re victims. I won’t say products. They’re victims of the same society that has negative attitudes about blindness. And I know there’s only so much you can do, but you can set the tone. All of you here, not just in special education, but all of you here can set the tone. To give you an example of the kinds of attitudes that I faced. We moved to Victorville California in 2014. Where do you live in Victorville? Where do you live? Okay, we live in Spring Valley lake. Yeah. Other side. We chose property and build a house on it. My wife happens to be in a wheelchair and it’s been in a chair her whole life. So we, we knew that if you buy a house and modify it, it costs a lot of money. If you build a house, it doesn’t cost anything to build in the accessibility. And we found a piece of property very close to the Victorville Spring Valley Lake Country Club. So we get to walk to breakfast, or to go to dinner when we want to go out to eat, which is great. Anyway, before we moved to Victorville, in 2013, my wife and I were in an IKEA store with a couple of other people. And this young 13 year old boy comes up to me and he says, I’m sorry. And I stood there for a second. I said, Well, what are you sorry about? Well, because you can’t see. I didn’t know this kid. But that was his attitude. And I probably didn’t answer in the best way that I could. But I said, Well, I’m sorry that you can because you don’t get what I get.
Michael Hingson 17:05
And by that time, his mother saw that he was tying this blanket and called him away and told him that not bothered the blind man. But you know, the bottom line is, we’re no different than anyone else. We don’t have the disability that all of you house. You know, in the 1800s, Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. Why did he do that? Because as we now understand, with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it was a reasonable accommodation for light dependent people who can’t function in the dark.
Michael Hingson 17:39
You light dependent people I know there are more of you than there are of me. But we’re gonna get you in a dark alley one night, and we’ll see if we can read. You know, again, it isn’t. It isn’t a blindness issue. I did go to college, I graduated I had several jobs that eventually led me to be in the World Trade Center on September 11 2001. I was there as the Mid Atlantic region sales manager for quantum Corporation, which was a fortune 500 computer company. I had been hired two years before to open an office for quantum in New York City. I was living back there because I had been transferred by another company from California to sell in New York City because I had been doing it by phone. And I made the case for the fact that we needed to do it on site. So I was asked to open an office because I had been recruited by quantum to do that. We opened the office on the 78th floor of tower one of the World Trade Center. The 78th floor is what’s called a skylounge a sky lobby. That meant that elevators would go straight from floor one to 78 without stopping the World Trade Center. The way it was structured was that you could take elevators to go from floor one up to some number of floors but there were also direct elevators to floor 44 and floor 78. The 44th floor was where the cafeteria was the Port Authority cafeteria that everyone use 78 was the next jumping off point. You would then go to other elevators to go to other floors are you take the stairs, or in our case we were fortunate to have our office right on the 78th floor and on September 11 we were going to be holding some sales seminars to teach some of our resellers how to teach how to sell our products. I Arctic con they are excuse me quantum the company that worked for then artic con move me to the east coast but quantum work through a two tier distribution and sales model. So typically most of our products were sold to a few very large distributors and they in turn sign the smaller resellers and the major distributor we worked with Ingram micro wanted to make sure that their resellers knew how to sell our products. So they asked if we do the seminar and we set it up for of course September 11. By that time, I Had my fifth guide dog Roselle was that was a yellow lab. Roselle was also a dog with a great sense of humor, she loved to steal socks. She wouldn’t eat them, she hid them. And I was warned by her puppy raisers that she’d like to do that. And she did. She stole my wife slippers once and hid them. And we had to find them. So in any case, we we in, Roselle and I were matched in 1999. And in 2001, she was very used to working in the World Trade Center with me, I had spent a lot of time when we started the office and started preparing to open the office, I had spent a great deal of time learning where everything in the World Trade Center was that I could possibly want to know about, I knew what was on most every floor, especially that would be a place where we might want to reach out and, and try to sell. I knew how to get around. I spent a lot of time studying emergency evacuation procedures. And almost every day when I went into the office, I remember thinking, if there’s an emergency today, how am I going to get out? What am I going to do? And I made sure I knew the answers to those things. Because many times I would be in the office alone, nobody else would be there. Because I had a staff working for me great sales guys. And their job was to go out and sell and support their manager, right. So that was me. And my job was to be inside supporting them going on sales calls with them from time to time. But a lot of times I would be in the office alone, fielding their questions, helping them in any way that I could, working to make sure that I knew everything that they might need to know so that I could enhance them out in the field. In fact, every salesperson I ever hired, I said, Look, I know you’re working for me. But I want you to understand that I view myself as a second person on your sales team. And what you and I need to do is to learn how we work together so I can add value to you and enhance what you do. My favorite example of that was with a guy named Kevin, who I hired.
Michael Hingson 22:14
I really liked Kevin, because when we were doing the interview, I said to him like I did to everyone, tell me what you’re going to be selling for us and how you’re going to do it. Now the typical answer for most people was, well, you’re selling tape drives, we’re going to be selling the tape drives, I’m going to learn all about those. And I’m going to go off and tell people how to do it. And what what they need to know so that they can buy it. That’s the typical answer. Kevin’s answer was the only person who ever gave it and it was the answer I wanted to hear. The only thing I have to sell is me and my reputation. And I need your support. I won’t do anything without telling you. But when we agree on something, I’m going to go sell me and through them will and through that we’ll sell the products. But if they don’t believe me, they’re not going to be interested in our products. And I have to rely on you. What an answer. But it was the right answer truly. So one day Kevin comes into my office and he says, Hey, we have sales opportunity at Salomon Brothers. I said, Okay. He said, they want me to come out and talk about our products for a project they have, I’m not sure that our products will really be what they want. But they want us to come and talk about it. And they wanted me to bring my manager along a decision maker. I said, Okay, he said, so they don’t know you. So I didn’t tell him you’re blind.
Michael Hingson 23:51
So we got to the meeting. We entered the building right at 10 o’clock. We I wanted to arrive a minute or so late. I knew what Kevin meant. When he said I didn’t tell him you’re blind. Because we were going to hit him right between the eyes with that. So about 1001 we’re walking down the hallway here, a bunch of people talking a few and we’re going where are these quantum people in all that we walk in the door and the room goes totally silent. We stand there for a moment. And I turned to Kevin, I said, So where are we going to do this? He says all right up here in the front. So we went up to the front I had a laptop projector in hand on my laptop also opened up the cases took things out and says where do we plug this stuff in? And he says I’ll take it and he plugs it in. And meanwhile, I’m standing there facing this audience. And so I turn to my left. And I said to the person sitting right in the front row on the corner who I heard as we walked by, I said, Hi my name is Mike Kingston, who are you? Nothing. Really, who are you? Nothing. So I kind of walk over near him and I’m looking straight at him. And I said I heard you when I walked by, who are you? So finally he said, Oh, my name is Joe. I said, Good, glad to meet you. And when I shook his hand, I said, you know, doesn’t matter whether I’m blind beside, I know you’re there. I don’t know a lot about you yet, but I’m gonna learn about you. So tell me, Joe, why are you interested in our tape drives? I didn’t ask if he was interested. I asked him why? Because I knew from my Dale Carnegie sales course you don’t answer ask yes or no questions unless you really know the answer. But you don’t ask yes or no questions. That doesn’t give you a lot of information. So Joe, kind of hemmed and hawed and finally gave me an answer to that. And then I said, So tell me a little bit more about the project, if you will. And he did. And then I went to the next person, and I went around the room. And I talked to those people, learning a lot, including our product wasn’t gonna do anything to help these people. But we were there. So we did the presentation. I did the presentation, I had a script, I did the PowerPoint show. And on my script was in incredible detail. And it said, everything that I needed to know including even on the screen, what picture appeared where so I could point over my shoulder and say, on the left side of your screen, you’ll see the A TLP 3000, which holds 16 tape drives and 326 tape cartridges, we use a special technology called prism technology, our system is very modular, we can actually connect five of those drives together five of those libraries together, so that you could have a total of 80, tape drives, and 16 120. Tape cartridges, all in one big library. And on the right side of your screen, you can see the ATL p 1000, which is a small single drive library with 30, tape drives, and some things like that, and talk on and on and on. And we went off and we talked and all that, and we did the whole show. And then I said at the end, and as you can see our product won’t do what you want. But I wanted you to know about it, because I want you to understand what different systems can do. Now let me tell you a little bit about who has a product that will help you. My bosses would shoot me if they heard me say that. But it’s the ethical thing to do. And so we talked about that a little bit. And then we ended the day and people will come up to me and we chatted some and a couple came up and they said we’re really angry at you. And I said Why? He said Well, usually when people come in, they do these presentations, we just kind of fall asleep and vege out, you know, because they just keep talking and talking. But you never looked away and looked at the screen. You kept looking at us, we forgot you were blind. We didn’t dare fall asleep. And I said, Well, you could have fallen asleep. The dog was down here. You may think he’s asleep, but he’s taken notes. Anyway, we ended and we went out and Kevin said, How can you know so much about our products? And and you knew some of these later things that I don’t know. And I said, Well, did you read the product bulletin that came out last week? Well, no, I really didn’t have time. I said, there you go. message received and understood. But about two weeks later, the Solomon people called back and they said, We really do appreciate all that you did and coming out and talking with us. And we have something to tell you. And that is that there’s another project. Because of everything that you taught us, we know that your product is perfect for it, we’re not even putting it out for bid, just give us a price. That’s the ethics of it. That’s the way to sell.
Michael Hingson 28:31
And that’s what we did. So, in any case, I spent a lot of time learning what to do in the case of an emergency, so that I could get out when necessary, because I knew that people like Kevin and the rest of our sales and support staff would be out working a lot of times. And so I knew everything that I could possibly know about what to do in any kind of an unusual situation. On September 10, I went home as usual, I took my laptop, which is what I used in the office, I backed up my data at home. I’m a good Scout, I know how to be prepared, and sometimes I would work at home. So I always made sure I had my data backed up at home as well as on the job. By the way, speaking of scouts as long as I’m bragging, I happen to be an Eagle Scout with two palms and vigil in the order of the arrow. blindness isn’t the issue.
Michael Hingson 29:33
A lot of fun. I had some great scout leaders who accepted me for who I was and that made all the difference. In any case. I backed up my data later that night we went to bed and about 1230 Roselle started nudging me. Now Roselle was afraid of thunder. And of course we had rain storms in New Jersey. We lived in Westfield, great town. Again there we build our house that was a two story house. We put an elevator in So we could go to the two stories and the basement. So we had this nice elevator and nice house. But Roselle now was bugging me at 1230. And I knew that there must be a storm coming. She usually gave us about a half hour warning because she could sense it, as we know because the static charge would build up on her for as well as the fact that she probably heard the thunder before we do and so Rosa was shaking and shivering and panting and so I took Roselle Karen, my wife was awake by that time and we both agree there must be a storm coming. So we went downstairs to my basement to our basement. I put Roselle under my desk and I sat down and decided to try to do a little bit of work that I was going to do the next day before our sales seminars began. I turned on the stereos and had a pretty loud hopefully masking some of the thunder sounds. But God has a sense of humor. I guess. The storm literally came right over our house. It sounds like bombs going off outside and pours it Roselle was just shaking. At least she didn’t see the lightning because she was under the desk. We were there until about two o’clock. Then the storm left. And so I went back up and we got three more hours asleep and then got up to go into the office. I didn’t think it was a bad sign of things to come. Some people have said well, didn’t you get the warning? No. So we got to the office at 740. And there was a guy there he just pulled up with a cart. He was from the Port Authority cafeteria, he was bringing the breakfast that we ordered for the early arrivals. And for the first group of seminar people we had 50 people scheduled during the day to come to one of four seminars. by eight o’clock. Some of our distribution people from Ingram micro arrived along with David Frank from our corporate office, David was in charge of the distribution sales, then he was there to help the Ingram micro people talk about pricing. I was there because of course I’m the technical contact the guy who would be on site in New York all the time. David was from New York, but he transplanted to California. And so so he was there and I was there we were the two quantum people, the Ingram micro people were there for about five Ingram micro people, six, actually, I guess. And then one of them decided about quarter after eight or 830, to go downstairs and to wait in the lobby, and a score our distribution people to where they needed to go. The last thing we needed to do before the seminars or to start was to create a list of all the people who would be attending that day, if you wanted to go to the World Trade Center and go up and see anyone at that time, because of the bombing in 1993, you either had to have your name on a previously prepared list that was created on stationery from the company where you were going. So they could check your name off after looking at your ID, or they would have to call us and say is so and so allowed to come up. We didn’t want to have 50 phone calls. So it was easier to create the list. David and I finished the list and at 845 in the morning I was reaching for stationery to create the list and print it out when suddenly we felt a muffled thump. And the building sort of shuttered a little a minor kind of explosion not overly loud. And then the building began to tip. As I’m tipping my hand and it just kept tipping and tipping and tipping. We actually moved about 20 feet.
Michael Hingson 33:37
The building kept tipping. David said What’s going on? I said I don’t know what do you think? I said do you think it was an explosion? You said it didn’t sound like it? He said was it an earthquake? I said no. Because the building’s not shaking from side to side or anything it’s going in one direction. Now I knew that building the towers were made to buffet and winds although I wasn’t really thinking about that at the time. But the building kept tipping and hey I grew up in Palmdale right building musco Santa doorway, so I went and stood in the doorway to my office. Yeah, a lot of good that’s really going to do your 78 floors up but hey, there I was. David was just holding on to my desk. Roselle was asleep under my desk. And finally, David, I say goodbye to each other because we thought we were about to take a 78 floor punch to the street. Then the building slowed down and it stopped. And it came back the other way. And I remember as soon as the building started to move back, I let out my breath. I didn’t even realize I was holding it. The building eventually got to be vertical again. As soon as it did, I went into my office and I met my guide dog Roselle coming out from under my desk. I took her leash and told her to heal, which meant to come around on my left side just like Alamo did good boy, he gets a reward for sitting and Roselle came and sat and was just wagging your tail And about that time, the building Straight down about six feet. Because as we know, the expansion joints went back to their normal configuration. We didn’t really think about that at the time, but that’s what they were doing. As soon as that occurred, David let go of the desk, turned around and looked around outside and said, Oh my god, Mike, there’s fire and smoke above us. There are millions of pieces of burning paper falling outside the window. We got to get out of here right now. We can’t stay here. I said. Are you sure? Yeah, I can see the fire above us. And there millions of pieces of burning paper falling outside our windows. I heard stuff, brushing the windows, but I didn’t know what it was. Now I did. And our guests began to scream the ones that were in eating breakfast, waiting for the seminar to start, they started moving toward our exit and I kept saying slow down, David. No, we got to get out of here right now. The buildings on fire. Slow down. David will get out. Just be patient. No, we got to get out of here right now. We can’t stay here. For me, emergency preparedness training kicked in. Because I, as you know, kept thinking What do I do? Emergency Well, here it was. Then David said the big line Mike, we got to get out of here. And I said slow down. He says no, you don’t understand you can’t see it. The problem wasn’t what I wasn’t seeing. The problem was what David wasn’t seeing when I tell you about Rozelle with thunderstorms. She wasn’t doing any of that she was wagging her tail and Jani and going, who woke me up. She wasn’t giving any fear indication at all. And so I knew that whatever was occurring, we weren’t imminently immediately threatened. So I finally got David to focus and say, get our guests to the stairs and start them down. And he did. While he was doing that, I called Karen, my wife and said, there’s been an emergency and something happened. We’re going to be evacuating, I’ll let you know later What’s going on? And she said, what’s, what is what is going on? I said, Oh, no. The airplane hit 18 floors above us on the other side of the building. Afterward, when reporters started interviewing me. They said, Well, of course you didn’t know what happened because you couldn’t see it. I said, Wait a minute, helped me understand. The plane hit on the 96th floor roughly. On the other side of the building from us the last time I heard there really wasn’t such a thing as x ray vision. None of us knew blindness had nothing to do with you can’t justify that. None of us knew. And on the stairs, none of us knew. And we were with a whole bunch of people on the stairs. Anyway, David came back. I just disconnected with Karen. We swept the offices to make sure we didn’t miss anyone. We tried to power down some equipment, didn’t really have time to do a lot of that and we just left a went to the stairs and started down. Almost immediately I began smelling an odor and it took me a little while to recognize that what I was smelling was burning jet fuel. I traveled a lot through airports about 100,000 miles a year. So I knew that smell but I didn’t associate it with the World Trade Center. Now suddenly, I smelled it and I recognize it finally after about four floors, and I observed it to others who said yeah, that’s what it is. You’re right.
Michael Hingson 38:12
So we kept walking down the stairs. Got down about 10 floors and then from above us we heard Brian victim coming through move to the side let us by the stairs were wide enough that you could walk like two or three abreast but we moved to the outer wall stood facing in and a group of people passed us and David described how they were surrounding a woman who is very badly burned over the upper part of her body, probably from the little vapor droplets that can busted as she was standing in front of an elevator. We then started walking again and then we heard it again burned record coming through moving to the side, let us buy and another group pass us with someone who is burn. As David said even worse, we knew it had to be pretty bad above us. We kept walking down some conversation. We got to about the 50th floor David wasn’t talking very much. And suddenly he said Mike we’re gonna die. We’re not going to make it out of here. And I just said stop it David if Roselle and I can go down the stairs. So can you see I took that secret teacher course that that all of you as teachers have never told anybody about because you’re sworn to secrecy, right? voice 101 where you learn to yell at students, right? And so I literally very deliberately spoke very harshly to David. And he told me that that brought him out of his funk. But then David made a decision, which I think is still one of the most profound and incredible decisions and follow throughs that I experienced that day. David said, You know, I got to keep my mind on it on what’s going on. But I don’t I don’t want to think about this. I want to think about something else. So I’m going to walk the floor below you and shout up to you everything that I see on the stairs, okay. And I said Sure, go ahead. Did I need David to do that? No. Right, you’re going down the stairs, what can you do, but it was okay. And I’m glad to have more information. I love information. And so I thought it was fine. But the reason that I thought that what David did was so incredible will come up in a moment. So suddenly I’m on the 49th floor when I walked down the floor and David walked ahead of us and suddenly, Hey, Mike, I’m on the 48th floor, everything is good here going on down. I’m on 49 go into 48 get to 48 David 47th floor all clear. What David was doing, although he was shouting up to me, he was providing information that hundreds or 1000s of people on the stairwell could hear. He gave everyone a focus point. Anyone who could hear him knew that somewhere above them or below them on the stairs, someone was okay. And that it was clear and they could keep going. He gave everyone something to focus on. And I think that that was the one thing more than anything else. That had to keep more people from possibly panicking like he started to do on the stairs. We didn’t have any other incidents that that after David started shouting 46 floor all clear. Hey, I’m on 45 everything is good here. 44th floor This is where the Port Authority cafeteria is not stopping going on down.
Michael Hingson 41:31
And we continue down the stairs. We eventually got to the 30th floor. And when we did actually David did and I was at 31 he said I see I see firefighters coming up the stairs. We’re going to have to let them by everybody moved to the side while I went down to where he was and they hadn’t got there yet. I said what do you see? And he said, Well I just see him coming up the stairs they got heavy backpacks on and they’re carrying shovels oxygen cylinders by our axes the first guy gets to us and he stops right in front of me and when let me bike goes hey buddy you okay? You know that’s how you sound in New York right? Hey buddy. Yo, in New Jersey, it’s yo and I said yeah I’m fine well that’s really nice we’re gonna send somebody down the stairs which should make sure you get out and I said you don’t need to do that I’m good. What’s really nice we’re gonna send somebody which anyway I said Look, I just came down from the 78th floor here we are at 30 I came down 48 floors I’m really good. Wow, it’s really nice. We’re gonna send somebody down the stairs which I said Look, I got my guide dog Roselle here and and everything is good. We’re doing fine. Now what a nice dog and he reaches out and he starts petting Roselle. It wasn’t the time to give him a lecture don’t pet a guide dog and harness. But I’ll give you the lecture dump had a guide dog and harness, dog and harness do not come up Don’t say name don’t interact with even don’t make eye contact dog in harness is working harness is symbol of work. Don’t distract dog. If you do, I will first correct the dog before I deal with you. Because rose Alamo should know better. He is still a puppy though. And dogs love to interact. And so when you start trying to talk with them, they’re going to talk to you, they’re going to try and then I have to bring him back and focus him. I don’t want to do that. So don’t deal with a guide dog and harness. Now as I said before, when we’re out selling books later harness will come off, and you’re welcome to visit with him all you want. Of course, I’d love you to buy books too. And take business cards because if any of you know anyone who needs a public speaker, whether it’s in your district or or their organizations, I would love you to to let me know or let them know, because this is what I do. And I really would love your help to do more of this to educate people. We can talk more about that later. Any case wasn’t the time to give them that lecture and it wasn’t the time to say to the fire person. blindness isn’t the problem. It’s your attitude, you know, so I finally just played the card. Look, I got my friend David over here David can see we’re working together okay. And he turns to David here with him. David goes yeah, leave him alone. He’s good. He says okay, and he goes, then he pets Roselle a few more times. She gives him a few more kisses. And he goes on up the stairs. Probably just having received the last unconditional love he ever gotten his life.
Michael Hingson 44:21
And I remember that. Every time I say it. I don’t know I never heard whether they survived or not. But don’t know that he did. But he was gone. Other firefighters were coming up 50 men and women pastors going up the stairs to fight that fire. Several of us on one or more occasions said can we help you guys and they just said no Your job is to go down and get out ours is to go deal with this. We got it. David we assumed a scouting position and we kept going down the stairs. Finally David said well at about the 26th floor by the way Somebody started passing up water bottles. Roselle was panting I was getting pretty warm with all the the massive human bodies. So we we gave Roselle some water somebody passed up bottles and David brought one up and he took some drinks I took some drinks we gave Roselle some we made our hands into kind of cups and so everybody got some water and then we continued and finally he got to the first floor. I was on four second floor two and he said hey Mike, the water sprinklers are on here you’re going to have to run through a curtain and water to get out of the stairwell. And the water was running to create a barrier so fire wouldn’t get in or out depending on if it ever broke out. He was gone. I got to the first floor picked up the harness results forward hopper speed up, which is the command to give. we raced through this torrential downpour of water and came out the other end soaking. But we were in the lobby of tower one. Normally a very quiet building and quiet lobby office type environment. But now people were shouting dunk on that way. Don’t go outside go this way. megaphones don’t go over their gun this way. Go to the doors into the rain, main part of the complex don’t go outside. They didn’t want anyone going out because that would have put them right below where people were jumping. We didn’t know that at the time. So this guy comes up to David and me. And he says, Hey, I’m with the FBI. I’ll get you where you need to go. And I’m sitting there going the FBI. What did I do? I didn’t do it. sighs I’m not talking to anybody about McGarrett from five Oh, I didn’t think that. Anyway, I said What’s going on? He said no time to tell you just come with us. So he ran us through the whole complex and out a door after going up an escalator by borders, books as far away from the towers as we could be. And we made it outside. And we were told to leave the area. But David looked around and said, Mike, I see fire in tower two. I said what? Yeah, there’s fire in the second tower. Sure. Yeah. And I went, what’s going on? We had no idea where that came from. We didn’t feel thing in our building when we were going down the stairs. So we thought perhaps it was just fire that jumped across from our building when the building tipped it was mashing pointed toward tower to we didn’t know. So we left the area we walked over to Broadway, we walk north on Broadway and eventually we got to Vesey street where we stopped because David says see the fire and tower to really well. We’re only 100 yards away. I want to take pictures. So we stopped. He got out his camera. I got out my phone. I tried to call Karen. I couldn’t get through the circuits were busy because as we now know everyone was everyone was saying goodbye to loved ones. But I couldn’t get through to Karen. I had just put my phone away and David was putting his camera away when a police officer to get out of here it’s coming down and we heard this rumble that quickly became this deafening roar I described the sound is kind of a combination of a freight train and a waterfall. You could hear glass tinkling and breaking metal clattering in is white noise sound as tower to collapse it pancake straight down. David turned and ran. He was gone. Everyone was running different directions. I bodily lifted, Roselle turned 180 degrees and started running back the way we came. Come on was I’ll keep going good girl keep going. We ran got to Fulton Street, turned right onto Fulton Street. And now we’re going west. At least we had a building between us and the towers. I ran about maybe 100 feet or so. And suddenly there was David. It turns out we had both run in the same direction. And then he realized that he had just left me he was going to come back and try to find me. But I found him first and he started apologizing. I said David, don’t worry about the buildings coming down. Let’s keep going and we started to run. And then we were engulfed in the dust cloud all the dirt and debris in the fine particles of tower two that were collapsing that we’re that we’re coming down. And so David and I were now engulfed in this cloud. He said he couldn’t see his hand six inches in front of his face. I could feel with every breath I took stuff going through my mouth and through my nose into my throat and settling in my lungs. That’s how thick it was. I could feel it settling in my lungs.
Michael Hingson 49:19
So we kept running and we knew we had to get out of that. So I started telling Roselle right? Right with hand signals and voice I don’t know whether she could hear me and because of the dust. I don’t even know if she could see me. Right? Roselle right? But I was listening for an opening on my right and the first opening I heard I was gonna go into it. And obviously Roselle didn’t know what I want because when that first opening appeared, I heard it but she immediately turned right she took one step and she stopped and she wouldn’t move. Connor was I’ll keep going, she wouldn’t move. And I realized there must be a reason. So I stuck a handle on a wall and stuck out a foot and realized and discovered that we were at the top of a flight of stairs. She had done her job perfectly. We walked down two flights of stairs and found ourselves in little arcade, a lobby of a subway station. We continued to well, we just stayed there for a while. And then this guy comes up. He introduced himself as Lou, an employee of the subway system. And he took us down to the lower levels of the subway station to an employee locker room. And when we got to the locker room, there were benches there were about eight or nine of us who were in the lobby at that point, that little arcade, there were other people that he had already escorted down. So we were all in this employee locker room, there was a water fountain, there were benches, there was a fan. We were all hacking and trying to get rid of stuff from our lungs, and not saying much what the heck was going on. None of us knew. We were there for a few minutes. And then a police officer came and he said, the air is clear up above you’re gonna have to, to leave and and go out of here right now. So we followed him up the stairs, he went to that little arcade lobby where we had been, and then he went on up the stairs. He said the air is a little bit better up there. And we just followed him. And finally we went outside after getting to the top. David looked around, and he said, Oh my god, Mike. There’s no tower to anymore. And I said, What do you see? And he said, All I see are pillars of smoke where the tower was it’s gone. Pretty sure. Yeah, it’s gone. We stood there for a moment. And then we just turn and continue to walk west on Fulton Street. We walked for about maybe a quarter of a mile. And we were in this little Plaza area. Just still trying to figure out what was happening when suddenly we heard that freight train waterfall sound again, and we knew it was tower one collapsing, David looked back and saw it. And he saw a dust cloud coming toward us again, it was still pretty concentrated. So we kind of ran to the side to get out of most of it hunkered down behind a wall and just waited until everything passes by and the wind subsided, the noise stop. And then we stood up. Turn, David looked around and said, Oh my god, Mike. There’s no World Trade Center anymore. I said what do you see? And he said, fingers of fire and flame hundreds of feet tall and pillars of smoke, the towers are gone. We’re gone in three hours before less than three hours before just to do our job. But now in the blink of an eye, it was gone. No clue why we stood there for a moment. And then I decided I better try to call Karen and this time I got through. And after some tears on both sides of the phone, she told us how to aircraft had been crashed into the towers went into the Pentagon and a fourth was still missing over Pennsylvania. We walked up toward Midtown and eventually got near Midtown Manhattan to the subway station and the train station at 33rd and sixth and seventh Avenue. And David and I set parted and went different ways. I wanted to get back home to Westfield he wanted to get up to the Upper East Side to his sister’s house, which is where he was staying when I was back in New York. And so we went our separate ways.
Michael Hingson 53:42
And never, never thinking that that was the end. And a lot of ways. We did try to reopen the office elsewhere, but didn’t get a lot of support from the company and decided that, for me, it was time to do something different. The reason I decided that was that the day after September 11, the 12th. Karen said you want to call the folks from Guide Dogs for the Blind. That’s where you’ve gotten all your guide dogs got to let them know that you were in the trade center and got out because eventually they would remember it a number of them had visited us in our office, because it’s such a cool view. I don’t know how to tell you about the view so much other than to say we were so high up that on the Fourth of July, people would go to our office to look down on the fireworks displays. So I called them and talked to a number of people including their public information officer, Joanne Ritter, who wanted to do a story and I said sure, and she said, You know, you’re probably going to get request to be on TV. What TV show Do you want to start with? So yeah, I’m not really thinking about that sort of stuff, right? kind of still in shock. So I just said Larry King Live. Two days later on the 14th. We had the first of five interviews with Larry King. And so we started doing that and eventually Guide Dogs asked me to come and be a public spoke serve their public spokesperson. And I was being asked by that time to travel and speak and tell my story. And people said, we want to hire you. Being a sales guy, I’m sitting there going, you want to hire me just to come and talk. That sounds a whole lot more fun than working for quantum. And we wanted to move back to California anyway. So I accepted Guide Dogs position, and I’ve been speaking ever since. Other things have happened along the way very quickly, including I was asked in 2015, by a startup company, AIRA, a IRA to join their advisory board and AIRA makes a product called a visual interpreter. It consists of an app on a smartphone. And it may also include smart glasses with a high resolution video camera. And what I wrote allows me to do is to contact an agent who has been hired and vetted and trained to describe whatever the camera sees, and whatever information I need so they can help with an accessible websites. They helped me put together products when the instructions were all visual pictures, the Chinese have learned from IKEA, and in so many other ways that literally now, any visual information becomes available with AIRA. I just really want to quickly show you like hierro and we can we can talk more about AIRA this afternoon in the the session at 345. I want you to see what AIRA does. So hopefully
connecting to agent Kenyon starting video we’re gonna wait. Oh, Michael, thanks for calling. I read this is Kenyon. What would you like to do today?
Michael Hingson 56:48
I’d like you to tell me what you see.
I see a very large crowd, right?
Michael Hingson 56:54
Yeah, what else?
podium to mic. And it looks like a very large auditorium, see some doors toward the back exit signs, and very captive crowds.
Michael Hingson 57:09
Here’s the real question. Do they look like they’re awake?
They are now. So we’re good.
Michael Hingson 57:21
So tell them what you do.
I assist those who are sight challenged with independence on a daily basis. We allow them to be more independent in their daily lives to get around with minimal help. And we basically help them to see
Michael Hingson 57:41
how do you do that? What do you do?
We use descriptives we use, we call in as we did now. And we ask them, What would you like to do and we assist them with whatever their task may be for that day, whether it be for reading, navigation, calling an Ubers, travel, descriptives, you name it, we can do it. We do that through either, believe you’re using the glasses right now. We have horizon glasses we use and then or through technology in the phones, we use remote cameras, to help them to see the world around them and describe it to them. And to help them navigate through
Michael Hingson 58:17
it to real quick stories. One, one IRA agent helped someone once while they were on an African safari to describe what was going on. But my favorite IRA story is that a father once wanted to find out if his daughter was really doing her homework. So he activated IRA. And he went in with the agent and said, How are things going? And she said, Oh great. I’m almost done with my homework. And the Irish said Irish and said, No, she’s playing a game on her iPhone.
Yes, we also bust children whenever we need to.
Michael Hingson 58:54
Kenny, I appreciate your time. I’m going to go ahead and finish chatting with these folks. But appreciate you taking the time to chat today.
You bet. Thanks for calling AIRA. Michael, we’ll talk to you again soon.
Michael Hingson 59:04
Thank you, sir. Bye. And that’s what and that’s what I read is all about. The whole the whole point is that I get access to all the information I otherwise don’t have access to. Because ironically, in our modern technological world, sometimes it’s actually becoming harder for me to get access to information. Too many websites are inaccessible and shouldn’t be too many books may be scanned, but they’re not put in a textual form that I have access to. There have been lawsuits over that. But the bottom line is that IRA creates access, or I should say it creates inclusion it gives me access to the information that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to. So be glad to show that to any of you What I’d like to do is to end this now, with some words from Dr. Tim Brooke, that the person I mentioned earlier, this is part of a speech that he gave at the 1956 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in San Francisco. So it is a convention of blind people. But what I’m reading to you now could just as easily apply to any group. And I’m sure that Dr. Tim Burke intended it that way. And this is what he wrote. In the 16th century, john Bradford made a famous remark, which has ever since been held up to us as a model of Christian humility, and correct charity, and which you saw reflected in the agency quotations I presented earlier, seeing a beggar in his rags creeping along a wall through a flash of lightning in a stormy night, Bradford said, but for the grace of God, there go I compassion was shown. Pity was shown, charity was shown. Humility was shown. There was even an acknowledgment that the relative positions of the two could and might have been switched. Yet, despite the compassion, despite the pity, despite the charity, despite the humility, how insufferably arrogant there was still an unbridgeable gulf between Bradford and the beggar. They were not one but two, whatever might have been, Bradford thought himself Bradford, and the beggar a beggar one high, the other low one Why’s the other misguided, one strong, the other weak, one virtuous, the other depraved. We do not and cannot take the Bradford approach. It is not just that beggary is the badge of our past, and is still all too often the present symbol of social attitudes toward us, although that is at least a part of it. But in the broader sense, we are that bigger, and he is, each of us, we are made in the same image. And out of the same ingredients, we have the same weaknesses and strengths, the same feelings, emotions, and drives. And we are the product of the same social, economic and other environmental forces. How much more constant with the facts of individual and social life, how much more a part of a true humanity to say, instead, there within the grace of God, do go I. And I want to leave you with that, because I think that sums it up as well as I can possibly do. We’re all on the same world together. And you have the awesome responsibility to help children. And perhaps their parents grow, and truly become more included in society. So this afternoon, I’ll be talking about the concept of moving from diversity to inclusion, and I’ll tell you why choose that title. And I’ll tell you now, when you watch television, you hear all about diversity. How often do you ever hear disabilities mentioned? You don’t? Hollywood doesn’t mention us. The candidates aren’t mentioning us in all the political debates.
Michael Hingson 1:03:46
Even though 20% of the population has some sort of a disability, not concluding politicians who have their own disabilities, but we want to go we need to demand and we ask your help to create a true inclusive society. I challenge you to do that. I hope we get to chat later. Come to the presentation this afternoon and come and see us. We’ll be selling Thunder dog books, and you can visit with Alamo. And also again, if you know anyone else who needs a speaker, it’s what I do, as you can tell, did you all feel you’ll learn something today? vendors and everyone like Thanks very much, and I hope we get to chat some more. Thank you.
Michael Hingson 1:04:43
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.