On that fateful Tuesday, sales director Michael Hingson, blind since birth, arrived for work at the World Trade Center’s Tower One. Hingson’s guide dog, Roselle, settled into her usual post beneath the desk. At 8:45 a.m. a hijacked jetliner crashed into the tower, 18 floors above Hingson. After calling his wife, Karen, and making sure his staff was evacuated, Hingson and his unflappable Lab began a hellish descent of 78 floors.
Spiraling down the emergency stairs, working methodically through smoke, debris, and fleeing office workers, they made it to the lobby. By the time they reached the sidewalk, Tower Two had been struck and was collapsing. “It sounded like a metal and concrete waterfall,” Hingson said. They ran for shelter down a subway entrance. They emerged from underground as Tower One fell, raining down ash and debris. Roselle led Hingson some 40 blocks to a friend’s apartment and safety.
In the weeks following, Hingson said, “I was taking calls from Larry King, from Regis and Kelly, Bryant Gumbel. They were looking for something positive that came out of the tragedy.”
Before long, the blind man and his sweet-faced dog were celebrities. “Invariably, I’ll be in an airport and someone will say, ‘I know you—9/11, the guy with the dog, right?’ ” Hingson told Family Dog in 2004. “It was a defining moment in one way or another for everyone in the world.”
After 9/11 Hingson returned to his native California to work for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization that trained Roselle, and he has written several books about his loyal companion.
Roselle was the recipient of the ACE Award for Canine Excellence in the Service Dog category in 2002. She died in June of 2011, at age 14, with Michael and Karen Hingson by her side.
This article was originally published in “The ACE Files” column of AKC Family Dog.