Michael Hingson wasn’t sure what happened at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001. He felt his 78th floor office move. He smelled fuel and smoke. Still, his trusted guide dog Roselle was calm, indicating to Hingson that there might be time to get out alive.
As the regional sales manager for a high-tech firm, Quantom, Hingson told employees and guests to evacuate. Then, he gave the “forward” command to Roselle, his guide dog. In the dark stairwell, Hingson and Roselle helped others who were not used to moving around in the dark.
Hingson will share his story and some of the lessons learned from 9/11 on Oct. 29 at Walters State Community College’s Morristown campus. The event begins at 2:30 p.m. in the International Lyceum, located in the Student Services Building. Several organizations are sponsoring the event in celebration of National Disability Awareness Month.
One of the main lessons of 9/11 is the value of trust and teamwork, Hingson said. The relationship between he and Roselle is one example.
“While others around me were in a panic, I realized Roselle was calm. That told me we were not in immediate danger and we may have time to escape. When we started down the steps, sometimes Roselle led and sometimes I led. I made sure our guests and employees went down first,” Hingson said.
Hingson, who now owns his own advocacy and consulting firm, wrote “Thunder Dog” about his life with Roselle and 9/11. The book debuted atop the New York Times bestseller list when it was released in 2009 and has been on and off the list since publication – entering the list again last week.
Local organizers hope that Hingson’s appearance will open the minds of students and business owners. After all, for five years prior to 9/11, Hingson and Roselle went to work everyday without assistance. Hingson negotiated multi-million dollar deals and supervised a regional sales force. He holds a master’s in physics and is a lifelong member of Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society.
Dr. Nancy Brown, dean of workforce development at Walters State, hopes current and future business leaders get the message.
“Michael Hingson’s story is not only inspiring, but his experience can teach us many lessons,” Brown said.
“We want employers to recognize the abilities are more important than any disability a person may have,” said Teresa Smith, a regional account representative with the DRS Corporate Connections Program, a service of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services. DRS Corporate Connections Program is administered by the University of Tennessee.
The event is sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Northeast Tennessee Diversity in Employment Consortium, the Smoky Mountains Workforce Investment Board, Walters State Community College and Walters State’s Global Connections.
The event is open to everyone and is free. Hingson’s comments will be videostreamed live to other Walters State campuses.
For more information, visit contact Adina Chumley, business services specialists for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, at (865) 850-8562 or Mary Little, special student services coordinator at Walters State, at (423) 585-6860.