Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thunder Dog:The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, by Michael Hingson (author), Susy Flory (author), Christopher Prince (narrator)

Oasis Audio, ISBN 9781598599893, July 2011

When the first plane hit the North Tower on the morning of 9/11, Michael Hingson was at work on the 78th floor, preparing to start a presentation to visiting clients of his employer, Quantum. The building shook, and tilted, and his sighted colleagues, who could see the burning papers and other debris falling, started to panic. It was Hingson, believing what he was told but not able to see it, and influenced by the calmness of his guide dog, Roselle, clearly indicating that they weren't in immediate danger, who took control and led an orderly evacuation of the office.

Thunder Dog interleaves the story of Hingson, Roselle, and Hingson's colleagues escaping from Tower One, with the story of Michael Hingson growing up blind in a family that refused to follow then-typical medical advice to isolate him in a home for the blind, but instead "mainstreaming" him before the term was invented. We see how his atypical upbringing--both the fact of his blindness, and the fact that his family expected and supported his full integration into everyday, "sighted" life, helped to develop the skills that in turn enabled him to be a leader in the 9/11 evacuation. Courage was necessary to be a steady, calm force in the stairwell of Tower One, but in many ways it took more courage to get to that point, to overcome assumptions, expectations, and bias to be working, productive professional despite the barriers created by not only his blindness but others' attitudes toward it. This is not the story of a dog, but the story of a partnership between dog and man, each supporting the other, putting their talents and strengths together for the benefit of not only themselves, but everyone around them.

Hingson tells his story with grace and humor, and it's read very effectively by Christopher Prince. As a bonus extra in this audio version, we get a couple of speeches and an interview that Hingson did, delivering even more effectively his wit, humor, and charm.

Highly recommended.

Book trailer:

I borrowed this book from a friend.