Blindness doesn’t slow 9/11 survivor

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Michael Blizzard Hingson was born in Chicago during a snowstorm. That’s how his parents came up with his middle name.

His parents gave him an ordinary life in Chicago and later in California. He played outside with cousins and was roughed up by an older brother, attended public school and rode his bike cheerfully around his neighborhood.

Ordinary things. Yet, to outsiders he was viewed as an extraordinary boy because he was blind.

At 64, he is an advocate and unofficial spokesperson for the blind. He gives lectures all over the world. He can talk about the staggering unemployment rate of the blind in the U.S. (more than 70 percent) and about simple ways manufacturers can accommodate the blind (installing speaking functions on microwaves and cable television boxes would help).

Most of his speaking gigs, however, are about adapting to change. Circumstances made him an expert on this, and audiences have been interested since Sept. 11, 2001.

Not long after he arrived for work that day as a sales manager on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower with loyal guide dog Roselle, terrorists crashed commercial airplanes into the twin towers’ upper stories.

Hingson and Roselle, along with hundreds of others who calmly made their way down smoky stairwells reeking of noxious fumes, were unaware that hundreds had perished and others were trapped above them, Hingson wrote in a New York Times best-selling book “Thunder Dog.”

The book is part memoir, part tribute to the loving yellow Labrador Retriever that safely led him down 1,463 steps. Roselle died in 2011.

Hingson will spend the 9/11 anniversary in the Chicago area with his newest guide dog, Africa, to talk about his experiences.


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