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The Devastating Quiet… #911Dispatch #Anxiety #helpless

We got word in Dispatch that the driver of the passenger vehicle was gone the instant of the head-on collision. Which was, at once, sobering and heartbreaking. Given his name, we made contact with his mother, to let her know she needed to meet with deputies about her son being involved in a car accident. A child, really, just 20 years old, who had so proudly driven off the lot with the car he bought all on his own, just months before. A child whose birthday was just a few days away, a milestone year he would never celebrate.

As we were ending what would have been an otherwise uneventful shift, it was eerily quiet (a dreaded word in the world of first response) but for a moment. Not a word spoken among us, or across the airwaves, as we handed off the tragic aftermath and cleanup to the incoming shifts. How do you walk away from something so life-altering for so many, and go on about your day as you stroll through the doors into the daylight? How do you leave that at work? And that is where our littlest comes in…

In case you don’t recall, she was witness to all of the commotion, and took it all in, calmly and nearly wordlessly, without taking any of it on. I’ve always thought of her like she was a sponge, because she loves soaking in and learning new things. She also picks up on emotional and social cues like no one I’ve ever met. Empathetic without letting anything steal her joy or energy. She tightened her grip on my hand once that door opened, and smiled huge up at me as we walked side by side to the running car. Thank goodness for Daddy, he snuck the keys out of my purse to make sure our car was warm and ready. How did she know I needed that big sweet grin? She watched, she saw me, she always sees me, and I’m so thankful for that! For her! You see I had commented to a few of the incoming dispatchers that I felt a bit useless not being able to do much to help. I couldn’t answer 911 lines yet, I couldn’t key up on the radio yet, I was a helpless bystander to all that was going on around me, standing at my CAD watching and listening to the call explode on my screen and in my headset. But then once our little angel and I gathered our things to walk out into the cold wintry morning, and she squeezed my hand, and smiled at me so brightly, a thought suddenly occurred to me. I wasn’t helpless, nor was I useless, I was right where I was meant to be, next to that precious girl, keeping her calm and reassured, answering her quiet questions as best I could about what was going on both around us, and at the scene that her Daddy just rushed off to.

As we got all settled and buckled up I turned to her to ask if she just wanted to take her time getting to school this morning. “Of course”, she agreed enthusiastrically! We drove slowly, carefully, down winding backroads, taking our time looking at the new calves in the fields near our old house, watching the wisps of fog lift over the ponds and streams that led to the river. #ToBeCont

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From The Beginning…

The change of shift on Thursday morning started like any other, with a few exceptions, Hubby brought our 5 year old up to Dispatch for me to take to school since he had to go on duty at 0600. She was sitting next to me coloring and drawing in my notebook, happy to be “working” next to mommy at a big girl desk. With her own cleared space to work, she was quietly chattering away about meeting Santa at her playgroup the night before and how much fun she had getting dressed for school because Daddy helped her pick out all of her favorite things to wear, he’s taller so he can reach all the things she can’t, like her cowgirl hat. Hubby said his goodbyes with hugs and kisses on the tops of both our heads as we turned back around to “our” desk. Only seconds passed after he skirted through the gate going 10-8 to start his check-in with his deputies, before the first call came in. 10-50U I was a little lost too, before I learned all 150+ signal and ten codes. Motor vehicle accident with unknown injuries. The moment that code left the call taker’s mouth the room became a flurry of clicks and tones from keyboards and mice and pages out to fire, EMS, rescue response. Then the real racket began… the 911 calls, every line ringing, the radio traffic blaring from computer speakers, our headsets went from silent to deafening without a second thought. We had dispatchers, call takers, all trying to get as much information as they could from callers before hanging up, answering another line, keying up, passing along info to all the various personnel on the road who needed it. I had never in my life experienced anything like it and I’ve worked as a civilian in law enforcement for nearly a decade. Seeing the administrative side versus the first response one is like night and day and certainly made me realize just how much I had taken for granted what it means to be a first responder.

The commotion settled into a more orderly and steady flow of information as most people stopped calling once first responders had arrived at the scene. Information coming in swept through headsets and out fingers typing steadily into the CAD to the first responders, State Police, LifeFlight, DOT, the School Bus Depot, tow truck drivers. I was awestruck how even through the frustration and adrenaline-fueled stress of the last 4 minutes everything just kind of came together to get all the right people in all the right places to help the two men involved in the head-on collision. It was no longer an unknown, we had eyes on the ground now, and it wasn’t pretty. Fully loaded dump truck V Pathfinder. I heard from two seasoned veterans who were first on scene that in nearly 60 combined years of service they’d neither one seen such a markedly devastating two vehicle accident. As the day shift rolled in by 0645 the place was settling down, radio and phone traffic relay slowed to a trickle as everyone on scene was busy doing what needed to be done. It was just the beginning for them. #ToBeCont