She would snore loudly, she was great at stealing socks, and her tail would hardly ever stop wagging. But what is most special about Roselle, a yellow Labrador, is how she made sure her blind owner was led out safely from one of the deadliest terror attacks the world has ever seen.
Roselle was the trusted guide dog of Michael Hingson, a sales manager who used to work on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. On the day of September 11, 2001, a short while after 8:30 am, Michael was in the conference room with Roselle asleep under the desk, right by his feet.
Suddenly, the hijacked plane rammed into the building, causing the multi-storied structure to sway under the impact, according to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
“I heard a tremendous boom, and the building started to shudder violently, before slowly tipping, leaning over 20 feet,” Michael told Express. “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.”
The 110-storey building somehow swayed back into position but everything else was mayhem. Michael, blind and dependent on his guide dog, could hear the screams of people around him while others saw the debris and the flames around them.
“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,” Michael recalled. “She didn’t sense any danger in the smoke and flames, everything happening around us. If she had sensed danger she would have acted differently, but she didn’t. Roselle and I were a team and I trusted her.”
Michael recalled everything he remembered from fire drills and knew that he had to steer clear of the elevators. He gave Roselle the command to move forward and they got to the staircase. However, it was a long way down from the 78th floor all the way to the ground and time was not on their side as the building was slowly crumbling down.
The guide dog was unhindered by the smoke and she led Michael, along with the people who started following them, down the 1,463 steps. “Roselle stayed calm, even with things falling on top of her, and she guided me through the debris,” Michael said.
Along the way, they saw a couple of wounded and burned victims being taken down. Despite all the reasons there were to panic, Michael stayed calm so that Roselle would stay calm. “By the sixth floor, I needed to get out. My legs were about to give way, and I wanted to call my wife, Karen. The descent had taken an hour, almost exactly,” he said.
They reached the lobby to find firefighters, FBI agents, and survivors everywhere. It was only when they reached the ground when they found out that Tower 2 was up in flames, too. Although Roselle was able to lead Michael and 30 other people out, the danger was not over.
Just moments after Michael and Roselle stepped outside, he heard a police officer screaming at them to move because “she’s coming down.”
“I heard the sound of glass breaking, of metal twisting, and terrified screams,” Michael recalled. “I will never forget the sound as long as I live. The street felt like a trampoline.”
One of the towers was collapsing in a matter of seconds. “I picked Roselle up, spun 180 degrees, and we started running,” said Michael. “No one was helping anyone any more. We were all running for our lives. 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.”
As Tower Two came crashing down, Roselle once again led Michael out of danger. “If I hadn’t had Roselle and had to depend on a cane, I would have been much more vulnerable in the chaos and panic,” Michael said, according to People. “But she was guiding me and I was pushing her. It was real teamwork.”
Michael admitted, “I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for Roselle.”
Seeing how they both worked together showed Michael how “powerful” it can be to work together. And he also learned “patience and unconditional love” from the Labrador, who passed away in 2011, almost a decade after she rescued Michael.
After her death, Michael wrote a post on michaelhingson.com, remembering Roselle for the amazing dog she was. “Roselle has been one of the greatest blessings and gifts I have ever had the joy to let into my life. God surely broke the mold when she came into the world… Roselle is unique without a doubt. She worked through the most trying time in our nation’s history, and she was right there unflinching for all of it. Her spirit never diminished and, in fact, grew stronger through the years after 9-11 which helps me be a better person today.”