Guide dog helped a blind man and others down 78 flights of stairs through smoke and debris on 9/11

“(Roselle) remained calm despite the fact that things were falling on top of her, and she guided me through the debris.”

She snored loudly, was great at stealing socks, and her tail never stopped wagging. But what makes Roselle, a yellow Labrador, unique is how she ensured her blind owner was safely led out of one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks.

Roselle was Michael Hingson’s trusted guide dog when he worked on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. On September 11, 2001, shortly after 8:30 a.m., Michael was in the conference room, with Roselle sleeping under the desk, right next to his feet.

According to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the hijacked plane slammed into the building, causing the multi-story structure to sway under the impact.

“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-story building swayed back into place, but everything else was chaos. Michael, who was blind and reliant on his guide dog, could hear the screams of those around him while others saw the debris and flames.

“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 remembered everything from fire drills and knew he had to avoid the elevators. He gave Roselle the order to proceed, and they arrived at the staircase. However, it was a long way down from the 78th floor to the ground, and time was running out as the building crumbled around them.

The smoke didn’t bother the guide dog, and she led Michael and 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.

They saw a couple of wounded and burned victims being carried down the road. Despite all of the reasons to panic, Michael remained calm in order for Roselle to remain 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.

When they arrived in the lobby, there were firefighters, FBI agents, and survivors everywhere. It wasn’t until they got to the ground that they realized Tower 2 was also on fire. The danger was not over, even though Roselle was able to lead Michael and 30 other people out.

A police officer yelled at Michael and Roselle to move because “she’s coming down” just moments after they stepped outside.

“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.”

In a matter of seconds, one of the towers collapsed. “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 collapsed, Roselle led Michael out of harm’s way once more. “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.”

“I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for Roselle,” Michael admitted.

Seeing how they both worked together demonstrated to Michael how “powerful” collaboration can be. He also learned “patience and unconditional love” from the Labrador, who died in 2011, nearly a decade after saving Michael.

Michael remembered Roselle for the amazing dog she was in a post on after her death. “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.”