Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trustry by Michael HIngson with Susy Flroy

Michael Hingson, national ambassador for the Braille Literacy Campaign, is a miraculous survivor of 9/11. He lives with his wife, Karen, in the San Francisco Bay Area with two guide dogs, Africa and Fantasia, and one cat, Sherlock.
Susy Flory is the author or coauthor of five books, including the New York Times bestseller Thunder Dog. Her articles have appeared in Today's Christian WomanEnrichment JournalGuideposts books,, and with Focus on the Family.
Thunder Dog not only tells the true story of Michael Hingson's miraculous descent down the stair well of Tower One of the World Trade Center after the first plane hit on 9/11, led by his dog Roselle, it also flashbacks to Michael's childhood in a family who refused to let him be hindered by his blindness.  He also comments on the restrictions still placed on blind individuals by employers and society in general.  The book is called Thunder Dog because Roselle, like many dogs, is afraid of thunderstorms.  When a storm hits in the wee morning hours of September 11, 2001, Michael awakes to comfort his dog.  Just a few hours later, the two leave for the commute to the World Trade Center where Michael's company is holding an important sales meeting.  Although tired, both Michael and his companion have just settled into a routine morning when the first plane strikes.  Without knowing for sure what has happened, Michael and a co-worker see that the visiting customers safely leave the building, then set about to close down the computers and lights in the office.  Flying debris and fuel fumes prompt them to abandon all thoughts of securing the office, and the two men, along with Roselle begin the decent down 78 floors.

As you read the book, you'll see how teamwork helps Roselle and Michael remain calm, and the two are actually able to help others.  Interaction among the many walkers keeps everyone on track to safety.  As firefighters begin a rapid climb up the other side of the stairs, an EMT stops to ask Michael if he needs assistance.  Only after Michael firmly shows that he is alright does the man continue on his journey up.  Within hours, Michael will realize that  those firefighters never return.  Thunder Dog was our bookclub's choice for March.  I actually recommended it after seeing that it was a citywide read in nearby North Fond du Lac and other cities.  It is definitely a book that could be read together as a family if you have kids in the 4th grade up range.  There are some essays about blindness that follow the actual memoir that probably would not interest children, but I found they revealed much about the obstacles blind people still face.  An excellent reader's guide with discussion questions, prepared by co-author Susy Flory can be found on the web.  A survivor, when so many perished, Michael Hingson has wondered why God allowed him to make it out safely, and has since 9/11 has dedicated his work to helping others understand the world of the blind.  Roselle was honored for her bravery, but later retired as a guide dog when health issues related to breathing in the hazardous materials floating through the air that day.  She was able to spend her last years as Michael's adored pet.

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