After September 11, 2001, I wrote
an e-message titled: "Transforming terrorism
with Heroism", which solely focused on the heroic deeds of
our two legged heroes.
This message is dedicated to the loyalty and dignity of our four-legged
For most of us, it is difficult to forget the images of September 11,
2001. But imagine being at the World Trade Center in the middle of this
chaos and not being able to see.
That was the nightmare for Omar (who lost his sight to Glaucoma). And
if it hadn't been for his heroic guide dog SALTY, he would not have been
able to get out of the building.
Omar and SALTY's partnership was predicated on Omar listening to the world
and SALTY guiding him through it.
But nothing could prepare SALTY for the morning of September 11, 2001.
Omar worked on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center and as usual SALTY
was by his side.
When the planes hit the North Tower, Omar's world grew even darker.
While Omar could only hear the devastation, SALTY could see it. Not knowing
whether to stay or leave, Omar was relying purely on SALTY's instincts.
Finally, SALTY and Omar, along with a co-worker headed for the stairway,
where thousands of others were also trying to descend to safety.
As the building was slowly buckling, the falling debris filled the stairway,
but SALTY's courage kept Omar going.
After a tedious exercise of climbing down 71 flights of stairs, Omar and
SALTY finally made it to the outside of the World Trade Center.
But there, the chaos was even worse. As people were running away from
the collapsing building, SALTY's guiding eyes and heroic heart kept OMAR
moving and out of danger.
Together, they both ran about 15 blocks to safety.
Today, their bond is even stronger because due to the heroic deeds of
SALTY that Omar can still be with his family.
When Omar and SALTY go back to Ground Zero, they can't read the memorials
that hang in remembrance or see the hole where the World Trade Center
once stood. But they can both feel it.
The memories of September 11, 2001, as well as SALTY's brave action, inspired
Omar to share the following sentiments:
"SALTY is a part of me. He is my eyes. Even though, he has his own
way of communicating, I understand many things he does because that has
now become the nature of our relationship.
"For me, the morning of September 11, was a different kind of movie.
It was a movie of silence.... beginning from this big violent moment,
going through listening to the walls cracking, and glass falling apart.
Then people screaming....
"SALTY was very nervous. He went in and out of my office. And at
one point, he sat next to me.... still nervous, which was an indication
for me to get ready for an immediate exit through the stairway.
"As we were going down the stairs, SALTY was by my side helping me
in the best way he could. When we got out of the building, I grabbed his
harness and he started running ahead of me and helping me by not letting
anyone cross my path.
"SALTY tells me that LOVE & LOYALTY goes
together. I am a blessed man because this is one of the greatest experiences
& teachings of my life, and:
"I wish that human beings can be as loyal and
faithful, as SALTY has been to me."
Likewise, Dorado, another heroic guide dog, refused to leave his visually-impaired
owner in that same tower. Instead, the dog guided his partner down 70
flights of stairs to safety even though unleashed
and urged to flee.