Michael Hingson (Part 1)

The Michael Hingson Group is located in Novato, California. Information on Michael's speaking topics, his availability, and his consulting services on Diversity and Access Technology for people who are blind or visually impaired is available Michael's Web site at: http://www.michaelhingson.com.


Luck or fate? Either way, Michael Hingson is on the right side of it. In 1979 Michael held a ticket on a flight out of Chicago airport. He was able to get a seat on an earlier flight. And why is this fortunate? The flight he had originally booked crashed on takeoff; all on board were killed. Even more amazing is that Michael is also a 9-11 survivor. He has twice dodged death.

Michael with Guide Dogs Roselee and BerylMichael made it down from the 78th floor of Tower One with his guide dog Roselle in harness, doing her job. Both Michael and Roselle remained calm. This is just a glimpse of his story and his experience on that horrific day.

Logo for Guide Dogs for the BlindMichael was born in Chicago, on the Southside. He has been blind since birth (his retina never fully developed). His family moved to Palmdale California when he was five - to this day he still really likes living in California. In June 1964 he got his first Guide Dog. His second Guide Dog walked him and his bride Karen down the aisle in 1982. Meryl is his sixth guide dog; Roselle, who is now retired, was lucky number five.

Information and knowledge are important to Michael. He has a Masters degree in Physics from the University of California, Irvine, and is a lifetime member of the Physics Honor Society, "Sigma Pi Sigma". For nearly thirty years he held senior management and sales positions with high tech companies. He is an Eagle Scout. In 2002, the year following 9-11, Michael became the National Public Affairs Director for Guide Dogs for the Blind . He has spoken publicly on topics such as teamwork and team building, change and coping with change, and networking.

At times Hingson seems a bit of a philosopher in his approach to life. He talks about the idea of change, not worrying about what you can't control, and states that change can be a good thing. Coping with change, dealing with things that alter our perception, and taking responsibility for our actions - all of this is a part of the very essence of Michael Hingson. Learning from life experiences, learning about how we do things, how we 'work', learning lessons about team building - learning is most definitely important to Hingson, as it is for most successful people.

Michael at the PodiumBut there is more to Hingson than this serious, philosophical side. He has, and it seems has always had, a wry sense of humour. Those who have had the pleasure of listening to him speak have experienced it. Even as he, Roselle, his associate David and others made their way down from the 78th floor of Tower One Michael's humour shone through. As they walked down the stairs he said to the group, "now I don't want anyone to worry, if the power and lights go out, Roselle and I are here, and we're offering a half price special to get you out, today only."

In September 2001, Michael was working for Quantum Storage Solutions Group and managed the New York and New Jersey operations from their office in the World Trade Center. On the morning of September 11 the only two Quantum people in the officer were Michael and David Frank. The third 'person' was Roselle who was asleep under Michael's desk. Portions of Michael's description of that morning are presented here; some of the quoted material is excerpted from several of his speeches (Michael has been a keynote speaker upon many occasions and presents to organizations and companies as a guest speaker).

9-11 scene of towerand smoke "At 8:45 in the morning we heard kind of a muffled explosion and then the building shuddered, and then the building began to tip. We both said goodbye to each other because we thought the building was going to fall 78 floors to the street 'cause we had moved about 20 feet. Finally the building stopped and it slowly started moving back the other way. It got to a vertical position and it stopped. David said 'there's fire and smoke above us, and I see millions of pieces of burning paper falling outside the window!' I could hear the paper falling outside the window. I didn't smell smoke but I believed David. David said 'we gotta get outta here right now!' I said 'slow down don't panic, we're gonna get outta here but we're going to do it in an orderly way'. Eventually he used the big line 'You can't see it!' Of course I'm not going to argue with him, the building moved 20 feet. I'm hearing the papers fall outside the window. But I had a piece of information that David didn't have. He wasn't looking for it, he wasn't seeing it. And that was that I had a dog who wasn't indicating in any way shape or form that she felt in danger. If she felt nervous she'd have been trying to pull me out of that building, but Roselle wasn't indicating any of that. I knew her. I knew that she would tell me if she sensed anything. So I knew that at least just then that it was safe to try to evacuate in a normal way.

We didn't know what had happened, that the building was struck on the 96th floor, on the other side from us, 18 floors above. All the way down the stairs we didn't know what had really occurred, but we worked together. David got our guests to the stairs as I'd instructed him to do. I was not about to leave while we had people still in the office. I called Karen, my wife. We got to the stairs and we started down. Almost immediately I began smelling an odor. I suddenly realized it was burning jet fuel. I've been to enough airports that I know the odor. Now we realized how bad it must truly be above us. Soon after the second burn victim passed us a woman near us on the stairs said 'I can't go on'. We all stopped, surrounded her, literally had a group hug and said 'come on, we're all in this together'. We knew if panic ensued none of us would get out. We had to get out together."

You will not want to miss Part 2 of Michael Hingson's incredible story.