Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blowing off steam

This post is not for the faint of heart. Really and truly.

On Monday night a co-worker sat down in his seat and answered a 911 call from a woman trapped in her burning apartment. Long story short, he listened to her perish in the fire.

Everyone deals with these kinds of incidents differently, he wasn't his normal chatty self when I got to work at 3am and I didn't push him to tell the story. We've worked closely together for several years and I know when to back off.

Later in the day, I heard one of the supervisors reviewing the call. Everything is recorded in a dispatch center, our phone calls and radio traffic are reviewed for a variety of reasons. Plain ol' curiosity was the reason here. How did he handle it? How did she sound? What did she say? What really happened? I heard bits and pieces yesterday, I listened to the full 2 minutes of the call today.

OMG. It was horrible. Folks, I cannot even tell you how horrible. For me, the worst part was knowing in the end she dies. For someone else it was hearing an explosion in the background, for another person it was how "not like TV" it was. The lady wasn't screaming her head off like you might expect, in fact, she was pretty freaking calm all things considered. You could hear she was in distress, and she was stating very clearly "I'm on fire... It's burning me... My bed is on fire... I can't get out of here..." In the end the line goes dead.

But you know what happens to us, at work? We keep on trucking. He proceeded to pick up call after call of reports of this fire and other incidents going on in our area for the rest of the night. Never missed a beat. I love our dispatchers. I love my job. But some days it really sucks. Some days there's nothing to laugh about.

When I saw him this morning I told him I thought it was a "real shittin' ass call, and I'm sorry anyone had to take it. You handled it well though." Because that's all there is to say. He did handle it well. There just wasn't anything else to do. His perspective is very different than mine... He was a firefighter before he started to dispatch. He sees that call differently in his minds eye. He knows what it looks like in real life, only now he has audio to go with the visual. That was the most disturbing part for him.

So, really I'm just venting. I had the wrong work group today to really get this out (too many others wanted to be the center of attention) so you got stuck with it!


Michelle Littler said...

What can you say to our jobs we see, hear and experience things that just can't be described. I am thankful everyday that I never had to take a call like that. I am thankful everyday that there are people out there who can. I am thankful everyday that I know the people who put their lives and hearts on the line for others. As sad and unfortunate as this situation was, and even though my heart breaks for those involved...the only glimmer of good was that she wasn't alone in the end.

Wentworth Family Blog said...

Great post, well said. So sad.