“To walk among heroes”
Guest blog post –
Written by –
Billy Short – Technical Trainer with RPSS
It was the last class of my training assignment for a PSAP in Louisiana. The training part of my class was over, so I broke into my post class “appreciation speech.” Since becoming a technical trainer for 911 dispatchers, my eyes had been opened to things that I guess, I had always taken for granted. I shared with the class how that I, as a citizen, truly appreciated the work that dispatchers perform. I had come to realize that most dispatchers were never truly recognized, or honestly appreciated for their work. I shared with them how that I had come to believe that they were the “first”, first responders. I had witnessed many community organizations and churches having appreciation events for other First Responder heroes, but I noticed that the members of the dispatch teams were never given a seat at that table of honor.
I shared how that now, I somewhat understood the roller coaster of emotion that a 911 calltaker could be on, simply by answering the next ringing telephone. I knew that one minute they would be able to feel their blood pressure rise in aggravation to a caller wondering when the electrical power would be restored to their neighborhood, or a caller wanting the phone number to the local tax office. To answering the next call and experiencing the desperate cries of a mother that had just pulled the lifeless body of her toddler from a swimming pool. I shared with the class my appreciation for their professionalism when taking a call from someone who just seemed to be having a difficult day, and needing to complain to someone, to the next call from someone that is having the absolute worse day of their life because their mate of 52 years was lying in the floor unresponsive.
I thanked them for doing the often-thankless job of giving CPR instructions over the phone until EMS arrived at the scene. I thanked them for trying to comfort a scared child, who left alone in the house, hears a scary noise outside. I tried my best to express my love, admiration, and appreciation for the job that they do, day in, day out, around the clock, and through the holidays. I also extended to them my friendship. Even though it would probably be limited to social media, or text messaging. I told them that if they ever needed someone to listen, someone to pray for them, someone to talk to, that I would be willing to be that guy.
I ended my speech with another, heart-felt “Thank You!” After the group began to file out of the room, one guy, kind of hung back a little. I could tell that my “speech” was having some sort of emotional effect on him. When the room emptied, this hulk of a dispatcher walked up to me, with tears now beginning to roll down his face, he asked if he could give me a hug. Of course, I obliged, and bear hugged him right back. With a soft voice he began to thank me. He simply stated that the job had begun to get to him, and that he didn’t know if he could keep going on. But that my speech had reminded him that it wasn’t a job that he performed. It was his calling! He told me that he was fired up and ready to get back out onto the floor and be the professional, the call-taker, the first responder that he was called to be. By this time, tears were in my eyes. I thanked him for sharing part of his story with me. And I thanked God for the little part that I had played in this First Responder Hero’s life calling!
Through social media, I found out a few months after that day, that my dispatcher friend had gotten off work, went home, went to sleep, and never woke up again. I felt the tears coming again! That scene at the door of the training room played back over in my mind. I felt an unexplainable sense of loss. That may sound strange. I had only spent a few hours in a training class with him. I never knew his life story. I never knew his family. I never knew his favorite food or color. But in his death, I knew that the world had lost a hero. To some, he was just a voice on the other end of a phone line. To some, he was just somebody that answered phones for a living. For some, he was just an operator that would give out a phone number. But I can’t help but believe that there were countless people whose lives had been saved, broken hearts comforted, and fears calmed, by this straw haired colored man. I believe that there were firefighters and police officers, that were made heroes of situations because this dispatcher sent them on their way. I believe that the world was a better place, and a safer place because of a that faceless voice on the other end of a mic, or telephone. And I believe that a dispatch team, lost a brother, that could never quite be replaced. And to me, I am reminded that my job is more than a job. It is a calling. A calling to walk among heroes! A calling to play my part in the training of giants! I want to be the best trainer that I can be, so that heroes and giants can be the best dispatcher that they can be!