The loving guide dog who saved her blind owner from certain death on 9/11
As about 3000 desperate people attempted to flee the hellfire at the Twin Towers during the United State’s deadliest terror attack on September 11, 2001, there was one brave guide dog among 300 others, who rescued her blind owner’s life and the lives of 30 other people.
The Labrador hero, Roselle, fearlessly led them to safety down 80 floors, thoughtfully navigating them through the smoke, fire, and rubble before the World Trade Center skyscrapers came crashing down.
Sales manager Michael Hingson who worked for fortune 500 company Quantum, received his guide dog in 1999, and she was sitting right under his desk at the time of the tragedy. In an interview for the Sunday Express, Hingston revealed the details of the moment he understood something wasn’t right.
“I heard a tremendous boom, and the building started to shudder violently, before slowly tipping, leaning over 20 feet,” he said. “Those inside became convinced they were on the verge of death. Tearfully, colleagues said goodbye to each other. I was sure I was going to die.”
During that time, none of the people in the towers knew that they had been hit by an American Airlines plane hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists.
Hingston said he realized it was time to act swiftly when the debris began to rain down around his co-workers:
“I had always paid attention to fire drills and I knew to avoid the elevators, take the stairs and not to panic. While everything was happening, the explosion, the burning debris, the people in the conference room screaming, Roselle sat next to me as calm as ever.”
“She didn’t sense any danger in the smoke and flames, everything happening around us,” he added. “If she had sensed danger she would have acted differently, but she didn’t. Roselle and I were a team and I trusted her.”
The two made their way towards exit as people around them stood confused, unsure of what to do. The guide dog slowly led Hingson down the stairs and more people started following them.
“We started to walk down and I noticed a strong smell, a little like kerosene,” Hingson continued. “Suddenly I realized what it was. As a salesman, I’d flown all over the world and I’d smelled it on runways. It was the smell of jet fuel. Then I thought—What if a plane had hit the building?”
Roselle on September 11 with her owner, Michael Hingson, and their friend, David Frank.
As everyone continued running down, following Roselle, the kerosene-filled air started to burn their eyes.
“I suddenly thought—what if the lights go out? There was no real panic yet. New Yorkers are tough. But that could change if the stairwell was plunged into darkness.”
“The thought hit me that I could be a guide. So I called out to everyone not to worry, that Roselle and I would lead the way. Some people laughed, but the mood was definitely lightened,” the salesman continued.
When they reached the lobby after almost an hour, Hingson tried to call his wife Karen but the call would not connect.
During that moment, a policeman began shouting at them, telling them to evacuate as the building was crumbling down. He picked his dog and ran for safety. Hingston remembers that it took only about 10 seconds for everything to collapse.
“I heard the sound of glass breaking, of metal twisting, and terrified screams. I will never forget the sound as long as I live,” he said. “Then we were engulfed by a monstrous cloud of sand and gravel. It filled my throat and lungs and I was drowning, trying to breathe. But we kept running, and Roselle kept guiding me perfectly. She didn’t stop once. Roselle and I are a team, and I was not about to let her go.”
Until this day, Hingson credits his survival to the guidance of Roselle. He eventually decided to drop his career as a salesman in order to work for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization that had introduced him to Roselle.
Roselle retired from being a guide dog back in 2007, and lived with Hingson until she was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer in 2011 and passed away.
Hingson has since had a new guide dog called Africa.
Watch the video below for a deeper look into this heartwarming story.
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