9/11 Survivor, Author to Speak at West Regional Library Sept. 10

Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle

Fifteen years after terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Towers in New York, Michael Hingson, who was working in the North Tower that day, is bringing a powerful message to the Triangle. The public is invited to hear him speak for free at the West Regional Library in Cary on Sept. 10.

Blind from birth, Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, walked down 78 floors to safety before the building collapsed on 9/11. Others in the tower, seeing the two calmly working together as a team to find a way out, followed them out of the building. Since that day, Hingson has written two books about this experience and travels the U.S. and overseas as an inspirational speaker. His New York Times bestseller “Thunder Dog” — written with Susy Flory — tells their true story of trust and triumph at ground zero, but is really about how he got there, Hingson said in a recent interview with Carolina Parent.

“It’s about life … overcoming obstacles, adversity and learning that we can all be successful,” he said.

Written with Jeanette Hanscome, his second book, “Running for Roselle,” for ages 8 and older, tells mostly of his life and that of his puppy’s life as well as referencing their experience on 9/11.

Born in Chicago to sighted parents, Hingson’s parents raised him with a can-do attitude to believe in himself and just as they did the other children in his family. He rode a bike, and learned to read and write. After relocating to California when he was 5 years old, he received his first guide dog. He went on to graduate from the University of California at Irvine with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics. From there, he worked, mostly in management roles, for technology companies for nearly 30 years. But after their experience on Sept. 11, 2001, he and Roselle came into the international spotlight, and he began to speak of his experience and about subjects that mattered to him.

During the interview, Hingson said he tries to inspire people to work together and help them to move on, despite difficulties in their lives, much as he worked on 9/11 with his guide dog to navigate so many flights of stairs, even as the building was burning above. “I was encouraging him (Roselle), telling him what a good dog he was, and to go around and go down the next flight of stairs,” he recalls, noting that guide dogs take cues from their owners and vice versa in order to navigate.

After 9/11, he said he realized that he wanted help people understand that blindness — though feared — is not a handicap to achieving in society and should not be a reason for excluding people from fulfilling their aspirations. “If I can raise awareness, if I can inspire people, help them move on from stress … from any kind of traumatic things in their lives, recognizing that many times we don’t have control over things, but what we do have control over is how we deal with them. … If I can help people learn more about teamwork and trust, then I am doing the job that I’ve decided I ought to be doing.”

Hingson currently serves as the vice president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users and is the National Ambassador for the Braille Literacy Campaign of the National Federation of the Blind. He founded the Roselle’s Dream Foundation, which has a mission to help the blind obtain the technology they need to excel in school and at work, and to follow their dreams.

He said he hopes to raise awareness that peoples' differences, whether due to gender, race, handicap or other reason, should never be a cause for exclusion, but that each person has something to contribute to the good of all.

If You Go

Interested in hearing Michael Hingson speak on Sept. 10? Registration is required for either program listed below. Click on the links below to register for either program at West Regional Library, located at 4000 Louis Stephens Dr. in Cary.

“Labrador Lessons from a Canine Hero” at 1:30 p.m.

“Turning the Tales on Terrorism: Lessons from the Twin Towers” at 4 p.m.


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