As my finger trembled, I hit the out of service button, slipped the yoke of card keys from around my neck and watched unexpected tears of both relief and remorse suddenly roll down my face. Embarrassed by my seemly, inappropriate emotional break down, where this type of persona is rare, I silently laid my head on the cold console, hoping that in the always-dim lite room, my state of mind would go un-noticed. My co-workers continued to take emergency 911 calls and although they were unable to console me, they were an elite group of trained multi-taskers, able to continue to take emergency calls, however 911 operators get paid, to pay attention and all eyes were without a doubt, on me.
I felt like a soldier leaving my platoon in a war zone and returning to civilian life. As we all embraced each other farewell, many of my co-workers whispered the same statement to me, “I’m glad you got out.” As I heard their signs of approval, I went from feeling as if I were a soldier leaving my platoon, to a prisoner of war, suddenly been released from captivity.
911 operators are men and women who hear some of the most soul-searing sounds imaginable, often the last voice some callers will ever hear and immobilized to their computers expected to remain calm, gather information, and stay on the line while people do the unthinkable, until the first responders arrive. This extremely high stress-working environment can make even the most dedicated operators; want out on the regular bases, but for many reasons feel compelled to stay.
Although I was eager to experience what it felt like to be able to stay home with my children, during a state of emergency, without a military Humvee, transporting me to work. It had been seven years since I was able to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I would no longer be there to listen to the sounds of what a beautiful Christmas tree; left burning, unattended could bring, horrifically to my ears, on the silent night of Christmas. As I slowly left, the building that gave me memories of incidents that I will never be able to forget, suddenly a distinct feeling of sadness, swiftly over whelmed me. I knew at that moment, I would no longer be a part of the team of unsung heroes that saved lives and did extraordinary, seldom recognized things, on the regular bases, for Baltimore County 911.