FDL Reads celebrates 'Thunder Dog'

It was a national nightmare. Watching the 9/11 attacks on TV was unfathomable. Imagine sitting at your desk on the 78th floor of the North Tower and hearing a tremendous boom. Then the horror of feeling the building groan and tip.

The day started as any other for Michael Hingson and his guide dog Roselle. Blind from birth, Hingson relied on his canine partner for many things, and that day their journey started with the trip from their home in Newark, N.J., to downtown Manhattan.

It would end with the pair surrounded by smoke, ruin and tragedy. Hingson captures their amazing escape from the World Trade Center in Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. The book will be celebrated throughout October during the Fond du Lac Reads program.

Fond du Lac Reads is an annual program of the Fond du Lac Public Library that encourages the community to read the same book at the same time, demonstrating the value of reading and providing a forum for public discussion and interaction through programming that takes place through the month of October.

Roselle, nicknamed Thunder Dog for her severe aversion to bad weather, safely leads Hingson and others down the smoke-filled staircase and out of the burning tower. She even keeps a cool head when the pair is literally upended by the concussion of the South Tower falling.

Of his bond with his guide dog, Hingson writes, “Roselle sat next to me, as calm as ever. She does not sense any danger in the flames, smoke or anything else that is going on around us. If she had sensed danger, she would have acted differently. But she does not. I choose to trust Roselle’s judgment, and so I will not panic. Roselle and I are a team.”

Hingson’s book weaves his gripping 9/11 experiences with the story of his life, starting with his mainstreamed childhood through eventual success in sales for a Fortune 500 company. In doing so, he raises awareness about the unfair disadvantages faced by many people who are visually impaired.

Hingson points out that the unemployment rate is 70 percent among persons who are blind who are able to work. He recounts personal experiences with blatant prejudice, when potential employers refused to talk with him after learning of his impairment. He quotes the late Kenneth Jernigen, who was president of the National Federation of the Blind, “a blind person can compete at almost anything on terms of equality with a sighted person.”

“We are proud to bring the story and themes of Thunder Dog to the community’s attention,” said library Director Jon Mark Bolthouse. “Even though the 9/11 attacks took place more than a decade ago, we found the themes of the book – teamwork, courage, compassion and faith – inspiring and as relevant as in 2001.”

The library’s Fond du Lac Reads choice for 2014 travels a very different thematic path. The novel Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, finds an 18-year-old orphan in post-collapse 2045 competing in a deadly global virtual reality game for billions of dollars and perhaps the chance to save the world.


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