October 29, 2013 9:15AM
Of the many moving stories of survival that came out of the 9-11 tragedy in 2001, few are as compelling as that of Michael Hingson, blind since birth, and his guide dog, Roselle, who escaped from the 78th floor of Tower One in the World Trade Center moments before it collapsed following a terrorist attack in 2001.
Soon after their ordeal, Hingson and Roselle were thrust into the international limelight where Hingson began to share his unique survival story and 9-11 lessons of trust, courage, heroism and teamwork.
Hingson will bring his powerful message to Pittsburg’s Memorial Auditorium on Friday, Nov. 1, as part of Pittsburg State University’s Performing Arts and Lecture Series. Hingson’s presentation, at 7:30 p.m., is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. All seating is general admission.
Released in 2011, Hingson’s book, “THUNDER DOG: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero,” quickly made the New York Times best seller list. The book offers a look at how a guide dog team works and how blind people can be just as successful as their “light-dependent colleagues.” A story of trust and courage, “Thunder Dog” reveals how blindness and a bond between dog and man saved lives and brought hope in the midst of tragedy.
Although blind from birth, Hingson quickly adapted to the world around him. As a boy, he rode a pedal car inside the house, without assistance, after he learned to “hear” the coffee table. Then he shocked the neighbors by graduating to riding his bicycle, alone, through the streets of Palmdale, Calif.
When he was a high school student, the school district refused to allow Hingson to board the school bus with his guide dog. His father, who had an eighth grade education, did his own research and fought the system, eventually getting his son a seat on the school bus.
Hingson earned the rank of Eagle Scout and flourished in school. During college at the University of California at Irvine, he became an on-campus radio personality, drove a car around campus at night, and even had his guide dog, Squire, stolen in a dorm prank. Hingson earned a master’s degree in physics and is a lifetime member of the Physics Honors Society, Sigma Pi Sigma.
In 1982 Hingson met and married his wife, Karen, who uses a wheelchair. Later he went to work for Quantum, a high-tech company that manufactures tape backup systems. Quantum occupied a suite on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center.
On September 11, 2001, Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, had just arrived and settled in to work when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into their building in the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center. They survived the initial impact and, after descending 78 flights of stairs, Hingson and Roselle were just 100 yards away from Tower Two when it collapsed.
After sharing his survival story on hundreds of TV and radio programs, Hingson decided it was time for a change. After a 27-year career in high tech computer sales and management, he joined the San Rafael, Calif., based Guide Dogs for the Blind team in 2002 as its national public affairs director, sharing his 9-11 story throughout the world on behalf of the school. In June of 2008, Hingson left Guide Dogs to form The Michael Hingson Group, Inc., to travel the world speaking about the importance of teamwork and trust in our professional and personal lives. He also serves as a consultant for corporations and organizations that need assistance with inclusive and diversity training as well as adaptive technology training.
Today, Hingson lives in northern California with his wife, Karen; Africa, Hingson’s seventh guide dog; and Fantasia, Africa’s mother and a retired breeder dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Tickets for Hingson’s appearance may be obtained at the PSU Ticket Office in the Weede PE Building, 620-235-4796, www.pittstate.edu/tickets.