Blind 9/11 Survivor Returns To World Trade Center Site With Help Of New App

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — This 9/11 anniversary holds a special meaning to a blind man who survived the attack with the help of his guide dog.

Michael Hingson was on the 78th floor of the north tower on Sept. 11, 2001 when the first plane hit.

“The building swayed and then it came back,” Hingson recalled as he came back to where the north tower once stood.

It was his first time visiting the memorial, CBS2’s Alex Denis reports.

“It is kind of a very strange experience to come back,” Hingson said. “I remember this as a building.”

The experience enhanced by cutting edge technology called Aira, a new app that is helping him — and others — comprehend the scale of the damage.

“Aira is absolutely a game changer,” Hingson said.

Hingson wore glasses that contain a camera using an iPhone app, he calls a professionally trained sighted guide who then describes to him exactly what the camera is seeing.

Hingson was so inspired by the technology that he now works for the company that developed it and says it has helped him comprehend the vast changes in what used to be his every day work life.

“This was a tremendous help in giving me the opportunity to get around here and know what was here and understand it,” Hingson said.

In 2001, Hingson was guided through the harrowing descent by his seeing eye dog, Roselle, whose demeanor he credits with keeping the evacuation focused and calm.

“What I was observing was that she wasn’t acting in a negative way which told me we didn’t need to panic to get out of the tower,” Hingson said.

Once they got out, they faced another challenge running from the devastation as 2 World Trade Center collapsed.

“It was scary, no question it was scary,” Hingson said.

Together, as a team, they made their way to safety.

“As we ran I kept telling Roselle ‘Right, right’ and giving her hand signals,” Hingson said.

Roselle was honored for her service that day and Hingson tells their story of survival to help inspire others.

“I tell people that in reality we never know what we’re capable of until we’re put to the test,”  Hingson said. “What we should never do is to give up.”

Hingson also took the opportunity to tell his story to the 9/11 Museum’s oral history project. He is one of about a thousand survivors, family members, and first responders to contribute their accounts of that day.

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