Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Dog Named Roselle

Today is the 10th anniversary of when the planes flew into the World Trade Center, after which the two buildings fell down, and a lot of people died.  This was a very sad thing when it happened, and it is still a very sad thing to think about 10 years later.  But today I am going to tell you the story of a dog who became a hero on 9/11, just because she did her job and she did it exactly like she was supposed to, even though there was a lot of scary stuff going on around her.

This dog was named Roselle, and she was a guide dog for a man named Michael Hingson, who worked on the 78th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Mr. Hingson had been blind ever since he was born, but he did not let that stop him from doing anything he wanted to do.  He went to the University of California in Irvine, and he got a Master's Degree in physics.

Roselle was not the first guide dog he had owned.  In fact, she was his fifth guide dog.  They first met each other on November 22, 1999, at Guide Dogs for the Blind, in San Rafael, California.  Right from the very beginning, they had a special bond, and Mr. Hingson knew they would make a good team.

On September 11, 2001, Mr. Hingson was at his job in the World Trade Center.  His job was working as a sales manager for a company called Quantum, and while he was busy working, Roselle was busy taking a nice nap under his desk.  Then suddenly there was a huge, loud boom, and the building shook, and then it leaned over maybe 20 feet.  But after that, it kind of came back up to the regular position.  Roselle woke up right away, and she came out from under her dad's desk, but she did not get all upset and panicky.  She just sat down and waited to see where her dad would want her to guide him to, because that was her job.

Lots of people got really scared because they thought they were going to die, and they especially thought so when they looked out the windows and saw all these pieces of paper and stuff that was on fire falling down.  But Mr. Hingson knew they had to get out of the building, and they weren't supposed to use the elevators, so he told everybody to come with him, and Roselle guided them through all the smoke and debris to Stairway B.

When they got there, they started going down the 1,463 steps.  There were 19 steps between each floor, and there was a landing where you had to make a turn in the middle of the 19 steps.  Mr. Hingson started smelling something that smelled sort of like kerosene, but then he realized that it was the smell of jet fuel.  This made him wonder if a plane had hit the building.

As they went farther down, it got harder to breathe, and it was hotter, and their eyes were burning.  Sometimes they had to move to the side because someone was bringing a burned person through.  And then when they were down to about the 30th floor, they started meeting fire fighters who were going up the stairs.  Some of them wanted to stop and help Mr. Hingson because he was blind, but he told them he was fine, since he had Roselle to show him the way out of the building.

It only took 20 minutes to get from the 78th floor to the 30th floor, but then they had to go lots slower because the stairs were all wet and slippery from the water sprinklers.  Finally, they got all the way to the lobby, and the whole trip had taken about an hour.  Then they went outside, but they only walked about 100 yards when the other tower started falling down, and there was a lot of loud noise, and people were running and screaming.  So Mr. Hingson and Roselle ran, too.  And there was a big cloud of dust and gravel, and Mr. Hingson could hardly breathe, but he just stuck with Roselle, and she found a doorway where they could sort of get out of the smoke and stuff.

The place where they were turned out to be a subway station, and there was a woman there who couldn't tell where she was going, and she was afraid of falling down the stairs, but Mr. Hingson told her to hold onto his arm, and his dog would guide them both to a safe place, which is exactly what happened.

In 2002, Mr. Hingson and his wife and Roselle moved back to California so that Mr. Hingson could take a job as National Public Affairs Director for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Roselle and her dad traveled all around the country, being on shows such as Larry King Live, Regis and Kelly, and the CBS Morning Show.  They even got to ride on a float in the 2002 Rose Parade.  And wherever they went, Mr. Hingson talked about trust and teamwork and guide dogs and blindness.  He wanted people to understand that blindness is not a handicap, but that when other people don't understand what blind people are able to do, that is the real handicap.

Roselle had to retire from being a guide dog in 2007.  The reason she had to retire was because she had developed an immune disorder that she probably got from breathing all the bad stuff in the air on 9/11.  Then in June of this year, Roselle got a stomach ulcer that made her very sick, and I am sorry to tell you that she had to be put to sleep.

But just in case you think that Roselle will be forgotten, you can think again, because guess what!  A book about her just got published last month.  It was written by Roselle's dad, Michael Hingson, and a woman named Susy Flory.  The name of it is Thunder Dog:  The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero.  Which is a really long name for a book, if you ask me.  I have not read this book, but a lot of people read it and liked it, which made it go right to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Mr. Hingson started a foundation called Roselle's Dream Foundation in honor of his brave guide dog.  And what this group does is it helps blind children and adults get new technology and equipment so that they can work better and experience more of life.

And besides that, Roselle was named a finalist in the 2011 American Humane Association's American Hero Dog Awards.  Mom and I went to the website last night and read about all the heroic dogs, and then we voted for Roselle, which we can do again once every 24 hours.  You can vote for her too (or for another hero dog) by just going here and signing in.


  1. I just watched Mr. Hingson on TV speak about his dog, Roselle. Then I decided to turn on my laptop and here your blog is about Roselle. I think Roselle was a very special dog and I'm glad he's a finalist in the 2011 fact, after writing this I'm going to access the website you provided and most likely vote for Roselle. Thanks for the great blog.
    Love, AP

  2. Dear Piper-

    What a timely brillian post. I really couldn't figure out what to say on a day such as today, but I wanted you to know we enjoyed today's post.

    If you enjoy listening to NPR, you're familiar with storycorp. They are trying to record at least one story for everyone lost on 9-11. They've even animated a few 9-11 stories. You might enjoy these. Mom says there's a hanky warning.

    Be sure to watch John and Joe too.


  3. I'm glad everyone liked reading about the brave guide dog, Roselle. There was at least one other guide dog at the WTC on 9/11, and his name was Salty. I saw his dad on TV, talking about how Salty helped him get out of the building, but I couldn't find a whole lot of info on the internet about Salty.

    Anyway, my mom and I listen to NPR all the time, and we really like Storycorps. We did not know they were animating some of the stories, but that's kind of a fun idea. We have heard a bunch of sad stories on TV during the last few days because Mom keeps making us watch 9/11 stuff. Maybe tomorrow we can watch normal shows again.

    Your friend, Piper

  4. I became hooked as soon as I started to read this book. It's enjoyable reading all the way to the end. Since it included an experience from 911 it was that much more touching to read.