First Responders…Holding onto Hope

Dear Dispatcher,

I know your name but I won’t say it here. Today you toned out a call for a “possible plane or hot air balloon down”, the reporting party was unsure as to which. As more details emerged I could here you relaying the information to the responding parties, “parachute seen”, “explosion”, “fire”, “smoke column” and through it all your voice remained even, calm to most, but I know your voice, I could hear the urgency. And when it was confirmed that it was a military plane down with two parachutes seen, the urgency was again back in your voice.

And what seemed like a lifetime later when on-scene personnel radio’d that they had located one pilot, and that pilot was “asystole” with “no respirations” you came across the radio with a “copy”, then took an audible breath, on air, with your mic still open for all of us to hear, and you continued your dispatch, repeating the traffic back and notifying incident command of the deceased pilot. In that moment you let us all know that you are human, and in doing so gave us permission to be human as well. I’m not sure if your husband is a pilot, if your daughter is in the service, or if in that moment and the moments that spanned before it you had been holding out hope that he or she would be found alive, as were the rest of us. Your pause spoke volumes, we were listening. And when the second pilot was found alive, and loaded for transport I’m sure you cheered right alongside the rest of us, for the gift of a small victory on a very challenging Tuesday.

You see, I’m fairly new to the first responder field and I know you are too. I see people who have been doing this for years with perfect radio etiquette and voices that never waiver, that’s not me, I sometimes stumble or pause to think of the best way to get my traffic across, or take a moment to steady my voice on a tough call. Today you let me know that while we try to keep our cool it’s ok to hold out hope, to grieve, to close our eyes and say a prayer, to pause, and to allow ourselves a second to be human during the chaos of an incident. I hope that never goes away. I hope that I still have those moments where my heart catches when a bad call comes in, that pause before I enter a scene, the grief that comes after a loss, and I hope the part of me that feels for those families and my co-workers and brothers in red, blue and gold never goes away.

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With Deepest Gratitude,
Engineer Trudell

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