9/11 guide dog saved blind owner, 30 others by leading them down 80 floors and away from the Twin Towers
Labrador Roselle carefully navigated them through the fire, smoke, and debris before the World Trade Centre buildings collapsed
As nearly 3,000 people desperately attempted to escape the inferno at Twin Towers during the United State's deadliest terror attack on the morning of September 11, 2001, there was one fearless guide dog among 300 others, who saved her blind owner's life along with the lives of 30 others.
The canine hero, Labrador Roselle, calmly led them to safety down 80 floors, carefully navigating them through the fire, smoke, and debris before the World Trade Center buildings collapsed.
Michael Hingson, a sales manager for Fortune 500 company Quantum, first met his guide dog in 1999, and she was sitting under his desk when the tragedy struck. Hingson, in an interview with the Sunday Express, revealed the details of the moment he had realized something was amiss.
"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."
At that time, none of the people in the building knew that the tower had been hit by American Airlines Flight 11 hijacked by an Al Qaeda terrorist and four others.
Hingson said he knew it was time to act quickly when debris began to fall down around his colleagues: "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 pair headed towards the door as people surrounding them stood confused, uncertain of what to do. Roselle slowly led Hingson down the stairs and more people began to follow 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?"
As the group continued their descent led by Roselle, the kerosene in the air became stronger and 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. They finally reached the lobby after nearly an hour and Hingson attempted to call his wife Karen but he could not connect.
At that moment, a police officer began shouting at them, asking them to evacuate as the building was collapsing. He picked his dog and ran for his life. Hingson recalled that it took only 10 seconds for all of it to fall to the ground.
"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."
Hingson survived the ordeal, and till date, he credits it to Roselle's guidance. He eventually left his career as a salesman to work for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization that had matched him with Roselle. The dog retired from guiding in 2007, and lived with Hingson until 2011, she passed away after being diagnosed with a stomach ulcer.