Eric's Heroes: Michelle's brave journey will make you see in a different light
She's out the door by 4:10 a.m. every morning, walking with a sense of purpose in Silverdale with her four-legged friend Sooner.
Out into the morning chill they go. It is dark and they march briskly in the night.
Moments later, the bus pulls up. Right on schedule.
The bus driver says, "Good morning Michelle!" and Michelle responds, "Good morning."
She rides in the darkness, Sooner content at her feet.
This is her morning routine, the first part of it anyway.
"I get up at 2:30 a.m. in the morning," Michelle Denzer said.
The ride lasts 50 minutes. Michelle is on her way to work.
"Oh I like it. This is my ninth year doing it, I've been working since 2009," Michelle said.
At 5 a.m. they arrive at the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal.
Michelle met Valerie on the bus a few months ago and they have become friends.
They get their coffee and board the ferry in time for the 5:20 a.m. sailing.
"When I first started this job I didn't know if I was going to be able to do this, but as I kept going I thought, 'This is good, I like this,' it's a routine I can stick with every day, without change," Michelle said.
Standing outside, she asked me if it was light yet. I told her the city was waking up.
Michelle was born blind.
"I was born premature, and due to having a lot of oxygen in the incubator, I lost all my vision," she said.
Until she was 25, Michelle was aware of light to some degree. And then that went away too.
Once off the ferry, she is a woman on a mission.
She and Sooner walk three blocks uphill across 1st Avenue and then 2nd Avenue. At 3rd and Marion, she gets on the #7 bus and her journey continues.
Michelle's odyssey lasts between two and two and a half hours every morning.
And the trip home is longer. Usually three hours.
She is fiercely determined to engage with her world.
You're looking at a woman whose desire to contribute, to work, is so great that she spends five or six hours every day navigating a frightening world that she cannot see.
It's called dignity.
Her place of work is at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
She puts Sooner into a kennel and pulls down his bed for him.
Michelle finds her card, punches in and goes to work at a table.
"This is called job assembly," she said. "These are what go onto the...canteen bottles!"
"I put a valve...with a spring and a bracket over that and those go onto the canteen caps," Michelle said.
If you watch closely, you will see her sweet smile appear and disappear as she concentrates...and then appear again.
It is an astounding place, 182 blind men and women work here. And 32 others who are deaf and blind.
They make parts for Boeing planes and all kinds of other things.
Kevin Daniel still marvels.
"We get a lot of people like Michelle, who (say) 'Thank goodness, I can actually do something in life that means something to me and I can make a living,'" Daniel said.
And then, at the end of the work day, Michelle punches out.
And she begins her long journey all over again, only this time in reverse. It is 2:30 p.m. There are days when she doesn't get home until 6 p.m.
Onto the buses she strides, and through the heart of the city...
And she gets on the ferry and heads for home, content with the knowledge that she has earned her place in this world.
Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.