Blind World Magazine

The first plane hit 15 floors above them.

KOMO-TV, Washington State.
Thursday, March 16, 2006.

By Kevin Reece.

SEATAC - We met Michael Hingson and his yellow Labrador, Roselle, at Sea-Tac Airport. Michael is blind. Roselle is his guide dog. Their immediate goal was to navigate from gate C18 to gate C2 for a Horizon flight to eastern Washington.

"It's not magical to do," he told us of the airport stroll. "It's not that hard."

And it was definitely not the hardest trip they have ever taken together.

Michael worked for a computer company on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center. The first plane hit 15 floors above them. His co-workers saw the flames and smoke and went for the stairs.

Michael felt the building sway from the impact of the plane, heard the panic, and went to find Roselle.

"After the building stopped moving I went back into my office and I met Roselle coming out from under my desk," he said. "I know that if she felt we were in danger she wouldn't be sitting there."

Because his dog didn't panic Michael didn't either. They followed their training and walked down those 78 floors together. Once they were on the street, and about 100 yards away, the towers began to fall.

"And that's when everything fell apart from the standpoint of no one was helping anyone. We were all running for our lives and it was Roselle and I working as a team that saved our lives," Hingson said.

And September 11th changed both their lives forever. Within a year Hingson moved to California and became the National Public Affairs Representative for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the company that trained Roselle. They've travelled the world sharing their story and have even been to the Oval Office together and met President Bush.

"It's all about working together as a team to make the process work," he said of the relationship between the guide dog and his master.

And the Wednesday walk through Sea-Tac Airport was for a trip to Yakima. Thursday Roselle would be at this side as Michael would give yet another speech on the value of teamwork and on breaking down the stereotypes that often come with being blind.

"The reality is that blindness isn't the handicap that I face. The handicaps really are the fears and misconceptions that others have about being blind or that I might have about blindness myself."

"78 floors is just a bunch of stairs," he said. "But people think that it's a miracle and as long as they do then I have work to try to tell people blindness isn't really the great mystery you think that it is. Blindness is only a severe problem, a real handicap, if we don't get the training that we need to function and if we regard it as more than the nuisance that it really can be."

"We need to step out and be brave about whatever we want to do," he said.

Michael and Roselle are doing just that...together.

For More Information:

Guide Dogs for the Blind

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