This Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. People around the world took the opportunity to remember the heroes we lost that day and all the people who helped out in the aftermath.
We also remembered the dogs who played an important role at Ground Zero, both in the search and recovery and providing morale to responders.
And Michael Hingson, a survivor of the attacks, remembers one dog in particular who became a hero that day: his seeing eye dog, Roselle, who guided him out of the building in time.
Michael has been blind since birth, but he hasn’t let it prevent him from living a normal life. In 2001, he was managing an office on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center. He was able to get around thanks to his trusty seeing-eye Labrador Retriever, Roselle.
On September 11, Michael was going about his normal day, setting up for a presentation, according to PIX 11 — until American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower, beginning its fiery collapse.
But Roselle helped keep her owner calm through the frightening ordeal: “Roselle was sitting, wagging her tail and yawning like, ‘Who woke me up?’ That told me that we could try to evacuate in an orderly way and panicking wasn’t going to help,” Michael told PIX 11.
Unable to use the elevators, the evacuating employees had to walk down over a thousand stairs to escape the building. But despite the grave situation, Michael recalls people keeping orderly — perhaps following the lead of his calm guide dog.
“All the way down the stairs, the fact that I kept telling Roselle what a good job you’re doing helped a lot of other people, because they saw me focusing and being in charge of my situation,” Michael said.
Michael and his colleagues made it out of the building by 9:15 AM, but the ordeal wasn’t over. They escaped just minutes before the building fell, and were instructed to run for cover to avoid being caught in the collapse.
“And as I began to run, I actually remember thinking, ‘God, I can’t believe you got us out of a building just to have it fall on us,’” Michael told FOX 13. “And when I did that, the first thing I remember was hearing a voice as clearly as you hear me, a voice in my mind saying, ‘Don’t worry about what you can’t control, focus on running with Roselle and the rest will take care of itself.’”
With Roselle still leading the way, Michael ran, making it 100 yards away before the collapse. “She did exactly what she was supposed to do,” Michael told PIX 11.
“While everyone ran in panic, Roselle remained totally focused on her job,” Michael later wrote, according to Today. “While debris fell around us, and even hit us, Roselle stayed calm.”
It’s an unbelievable story, but Roselle wasn’t even the only seeing eye dog to save their owner on 9/11.
Another guide dog named Salty guided his owner Omar Rivera from the 71st floor. Both dogs were hailed as heroes in the aftermath of 9/11.
They both received the PDSA’s Dickin Medal, the highest medal for bravery an animal can receive, in 2002 for their service, and were posthumously named American Humane’s American Hero Dog of the Year in 2011.
Roselle died in 2011, at the age of 14. Michael now has a new seeing eye dog named Alamo.
But Roselle will always be remembered as a hero. Today, Michael shares her story with the world as a motivational speaker and advocate for the blind.
He says that people still find important lessons in his 9/11 story: “We need to remember what that was like and find ways to work together. All of us need to do that,” he told FOX 13.
What a hero. Thank you, Roselle, for guiding your owner out of the World Trade Center on that fateful day. It’s a reminder of the crucial life-saving work guide dogs do every day.
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