National News

Sep 11, 2011 2:00 PM by Danielle Lerner

Guide dog raised in Santa Barbara helped blind owner escape from World Trade Center

It's a tale of survival, teamwork and the bond between one man and his dog. Michael Hingson is blind. He was working as a sales manager on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center's Tower One on 9/11, and escaped with the help of his guide dog Roselle, who was raised in Santa Barbara.

Ten years later their experience has become a best-selling book called "Thunder Dog."

"At 8:45 in the morning or 8:46 we heard a muffled explosion and the building sort of shuddered," said Hingson. "If you can imagine my arm as the tower it just started tipping."

Once the tipping stopped, Hingson and Roselle calmly worked together to get down 1,463 stairs.

"I kept encouraging her and she did her job really well," Hingson said.

When they finally made it to the bottom, Tower Two started to collapse. Hingson and Roselle ran to escape the enormous cloud of dust and debris.

"We all turned and just ran for our lives," Hingson said. "She did exactly what she was supposed to do and because of that we were able to survive."

Together they managed to make their way into an underground subway station, even stopping to help others.

"There was a woman at the bottom of the stairs who was crying saying, 'My eyes are filled with dirt I cant see,' I said, 'I'm blind, I have a guide dog, Roselle will make sure that neither of us fall down the stairs, you're okay,'" Hingson said.

Their story made national headlines and they continued speaking together until Roselle's death in June of this year. She was 13 years old, they had been together more than 11 years.

"I think we were closer than ever and I certainly appreciated all the more what she did," said Hingson.

Roselle's heroism will live on. "Thunder Dog" not only recounts 9/11, it also aims to dispel some of the myths surrounding blindness. All while highlighting the incredible trust and sense of togetherness that developed in the face of immeasurable tragedy.

"The real plot is the teamwork that went on, not just with me but with so many other people," said Hingson. "We all have gifts, we all have skills and on 9/11 all of us shared whatever talents we had to make sure we all got out."

In Roselle's honor, Hingson started Roselle's Dream Foundation as a way to educate people about blindness and raise money to help blind people purchase technology to use in their daily lives.

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