Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 and Lazy Book Review: Thunder Dog

I was running late for my online journalism class at The University of Akron. I had thrown on jeans and a hoodie and was racing across campus, and I decided to cut through the student center. People were gathered around TVs in every corner, which I thought was weird. Was there a game on this early in the day? That doesn't make any sense.

When I got to my class, the room was abuzz and my professor hadn't shown up yet. The students were trying to figure out what happened. "Did you see it? Who would do that?" Both planes had already crashed into the World Trade Center, so hearing this from the other kids in my class was weird. Like they were making it up or something.

Our professor came in about 15 minutes late. He worked for Knight Ridder at the time and had been inundated with calls. He immediately plugged in his laptop to the overhead projector and surfed the web to show us all the things that were already online. Pictures, stories, videos. Some of us saw the crashes for the very first time on the Internet. My professor was raving about how quickly the content had been produced and how amazing the Internet was for future journalists like us...

And then his phone rang. The Pentagon had been hit. He had to go—duty called. And we were sent home early.

My first thought as I left class was, "I wonder if Missy's OK." My friend Missy went to Fordham and had an internship in Manhattan a few days a week. I tried calling, but all the circuits were busy.

As I cut back through the student center, there was an announcement that all afternoon classes had been cancelled. When I returned to the Townhouses, our Residence Life Coordinator informed us that we had to go to all of our residents and tell them to kick out anyone who didn't live in their room/house, then ask them to lock their doors and draw their curtains. No one knew what to expect—would there be looting? Mass hysteria? We had to make sure the students in university housing were taken care of.

After all of that was done, I got on my computer and—lo and behold!—there was Missy on instant messenger. She had indeed gone to her internship that day and was now stranded in Manhattan, since all of the trains were stopped. Fordham had a van that took students into the city for their internships, and there was a kid on the van that morning who had been headed to the World Trade Center when the planes hit. But he was safe, Missy was safe, and, in true Missy fashion, she interviewed people at the train station later that night for an article. That girl was born to be a journalist.

I spent the rest of the day on the couch with my fellow RAs watching news coverage and trying to figure out what had happened. Terrorists? What? Was that even a thing? Who knew the world would change so much in just one morning?

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Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson

So I was a little skeptical of this book at first. I mean, it's called Thunder Dog. But the premise sounded interesting: A blind man who works on the 78th floor of Tower One relies on his trusty guide dog to help him navigate the destruction of 9/11. That story is interwoven with stories of Michael's experiences being blind. About his parents, his education (his parents mainstreamed him when no one else was doing that), his hobbies, his work, his guide dogs, his wife, and some general information about blindness and blind organizations.

The latter was a little tedious at times. It seemed like a lot of biography and just a little bit of 9/11. The 9/11 parts of the story seemed to be stretched very thin and the bulk of the book was about his life. And I thought the book would be a little longer, but there's a large chunk in the back with resources for the blind, text of a speech, etc. While reading it, I could tell that the author isn't primarily a writer. Not that anyone can't tell their story, but it makes a difference in the flow of the writing.

It was fascinating to read about how guide dogs are trained and how they function. They're like furry little machines when it comes to doing their job, and even in the chaos of 9/11, Hingson's dog, Roselle, didn't falter. She got him down 1,463 stairs, through the dust cloud after the collapse, and home at the end of the day. Hingson stresses that it's a partnership; he and the dog are a team. After reading his harrowing escape from the World Trade Center, I believe it. When humans take on an every-man-for-himself attitude, a guide dog doesn't. That amazes me.

So the book was OK. It's not a bad read, but not high on my list.


Apart from getting the book for free from BookSneeze, I received no compensation for this review. All opinions are mine. Clearly.

5 comments:

  1. I can't believe how well you remember all that (at least on my end).

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  2. @Missy You are consistently surprised at how well I remember things. lol

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  3. I was in Boston. i can attest to how weak and pathetic the Logan Airport security really was...how easy it must have been for the terrorists to pass through undetected.

    Still makes me angry to think about...

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  4. You have a very good memory. I don't remember what I was wearing that day. And, I'm glad for the book review. I look forward to reading more from your blog.

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  5. @Suzanne Acuff Well, jeans and a hoodie comprised my typical "running late" outfit. And pretty much my daily uniform from my senior year on out. And, at the time, the only two hoodies I owned were a light gray U of Akron one and a charcoal gray Aeropostale one with red lining. Which was my very first hoodie. It's held up well, and I still wear it. Looks like the day I bought it!

    OK, I'll stop my hoodie nerdiness now...

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I wrote the thing. You read the thing. Don't be too lazy to comment!