By now, you've probably heard the story of Michael Hingson, a blind gentleman who miraculously escaped from the 78th floor of the second tower of the World Trade Center with his guide dog, Roselle, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
What you might not know, however, is Hingson is one of us--someone whose professional life is tied to the IT community and to the distribution channel, in particular. To those of us not personally touched by last month's events on Sept. 11 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, but deeply affected, nonetheless, Hingson provides an answer to one of the many questions swirling in our heads since that fateful day: How would I react if put in that same, ghastly situation?
Would I freeze, or panic? Fail to help a fallen colleague or injured stranger? If the response of Hingson, a channel sales manager with Quantum ATL, and those around him is any indication, then take comfort in knowing that good people rise above the wretchedness this world sometimes presents.
If you doubt those words and surmise that Hingson, perhaps because of his lifelong affliction, has somehow built up over the years an unyielding determination to overcome hardships you couldn't possibly possess, then consider his reaction immediately after the second tower of the WTC was struck by a Boeing 767. Although some 900 feet up in a building suddenly listing to the side, Hingson and his colleague, Ingram corporate account manager David Frank, stopped a moment before leaving the building. The reason? The need to power down their equipment, of course.
If you know in your heart that you would have done the same thing, then embrace the idea that you, like Hingson, would have maintained your composure at that confused moment in history. In this special column of VARBusiness, we pay tribute to those whose actions that day not only impress us for their bravery, but also inspire us for their virtue.
That morning, Hingson and Frank were working out of a suite of offices leased by Ingram Micro in 2 World Trade Center. Their job that day: to introduce two dozen New York area VARs to Quantum's refrigerator-sized P3000 automated tape-library storage system. "We were looking forward to an exciting day," Frank recalls.
No one on earth could have possibly imagined what horrors awaited. Looking back, Hingson and Frank remember spending 30 or so seconds trying to shut down the equipment before heading down the stairwell. "Now it seems like an immensely foolish thing to have done, but at the time we simply wanted to do right by the company," Frank says.
That example of trying to do right amid the chaos permeated the air. During their half-hour descent down the stairwells, for example, Hingson and Frank remember people pausing to hand out bottles of water, which helped the evacuees immensely due to the amount of searing contaminants. Frank recalls the startling examples of civility shown when people were asked to move aside to allow burn victims to move down more rapidly. Then there were the numerous examples of bravery as demonstrated by the 40 or so firemen who passed Hingson and Frank on the stairwell.
"Almost every one, though out of breath from scaling dozens of floors, stopped to ask if we were OK," Frank says. "That, I won't ever forget."
Eventually Hingson and Frank made their way out of the WTC complex to the street where, for the second time that day, they feared for their lives when the towers came tumbling down. They found refuge amid the rubble and dust, before rising again to escape.
Hingson says the events have transformed him, but in ways he has not fully realized. He's become somewhat of a media favorite, having been featured in numerous articles and TV shows including "Larry King Live" on CNN. He doesn't covet the spotlight or cherish the thought of what may follow. But he vows to keep working and move on. "We've come out of an age of innocence and nothing will ever be the same," he says. Save for one thing that he and the other heroes of Sept. 11 have shown us all: When the bells of calamity toll, good people respond with dignity and grace.