My time in this corner of the internet has come to an end. It is my hope that the writings here have allowed you to a step back, even after your worst day on the job, and realize how special this career is. It’s truly a calling and a job that not everyone can do.
I promised a little something different for the last blog entry, so here it is. It’s a version of a short story I submitted to Writer’s Digest several years back:
It had been a tough six months for Jack Stevens. His whole life he wanted to be a police officer. Specifically, a K9 officer. Although it was stereotypical and he knew it, he loved the idyllic notion of being a ‘peace officer.’ Fighting crime and helping people, all while doing it with a four-legged partner. When he couldn’t get on a police force, and then couldn’t find a job after his police academy training, it was a blow to his psyche.
What was he going to do for the rest of his life?
When a job opening for a 9-1-1 dispatcher became available at the very department he hoped to join as an officer, it felt rather fortuitous. It wasn’t what he really wanted, but he felt it would be a good way to get his foot in the door. He hated settling but couldn’t deny it was a well-timed opportunity.
A couple months after being hired, he quickly learned being a dispatcher wasn’t settling at all. He often felt he “saw” more action than the officers on the road. The action may have been over a telephone or 9-1-1 line, but the officers didn’t get to experience this: reviving an overdose patient after giving CPR instructions over the phone, or being one of the first people to hear a new life cry out after helping a dad deliver the baby. Not to mention the rush felt when listening to someone scream over the phone, then controlling your quivering voice long enough to dispatch officers to that scene.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement and boost of adrenaline when he given the opportunity to do a ride-along during a night that had already proven to be action-filled and busy. He sent a text to his new bride, Jan, who he had been married to just over a year.
“I’m going tonight,” he texted. “should be a good time…going to one of the busiest zones in the city!”
“ooh…okay. Don’t have too much fun! Just be careful,” Jan responded.
“HON….I’ll be fine! I’ll be in the passenger seat, not driving or getting out of the car, lol”
“I know I know…I just so glad you’re usually in a locked room where your biggest worry is getting shocked by a computer! ? Love you!”
Jan thought about this as the night wore on. Jack’s safety was always a huge concern for her. When Jack told her of his acceptance to the police academy, she could only be supportive and hope that he learned all he could and absorbed every safety precaution taught. She didn’t know how the other police wives managed. When he couldn’t find a job at a police department, outwardly she would empathize with him and listen as he vented, but inwardly, she thanked God every day.
“How’s it going?! You having fun?” Jan texted.
She waited to see the “Jack is typing” notification on her phone screen. It wasn’t popping up. All she saw was “Sent.” She thought nothing of it. “Ha. The boys club!”she thought. “I’m sure he’s LOVING eating with the boys and yammering on about cop stuff!”
As she stared out the bay window of their newly purchased home, thinking about her husband with his boyish and charming excitement around being a police officer, headlights pulled up her driveway.
“That’s strange,” she thought. The moon illuminated the vehicle as it pulled further into the driveway, and she finally recognized it as a Pinehurst police vehicle, the agency her husband worked for.
With the clicking on of the interior light of the police car, Jan recognized the driver as Patrolman Brian Urbach, someone she’d met once at a Christmas party. As soon as the passenger stepped out of the car, her heart sunk. She had to consciously remind herself to breathe. She saw the three stripes on the figure’s right shoulder. Quickly she recognized Sergeant Steve Spurrier, whom she had met at the same party and whom she saw occasionally in passing. As he stepped out of the car and placed his uniform hat upon his head, she could see his face, long and drawn out. As they both approached, Jan could tell they would’ve rather been anywhere else at that moment.
“Evening, Mrs. Stevens. I’m sorry to be here tonight, but there’s been an accident,” Sgt. Spurrier said.
“What are you talking about? Jack is doing a ride-along with one of your officers. I got a text from him not too long ago.”
“I understand. That’s why I’m here”
“I’m glad you do because I sure as heck don’t.”
The sergeant removed his hat, played with it a couple times between his fingers before he looked up at her.
“The cruiser he was riding in was going lights and sirens to a hot call. It approached an intersection and was struck broadside and t-boned. On Jack’s side…he was killed instantly.”
“OH MY GOD! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? HE’S A DISPATCHER! THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE SAFE!! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?! What about the other officer?”
The sergeant continued, “The officer who was driving was seriously hurt and has a broken arm, but he is expected to survive. Jack was one of ours, and I can assure you he will be missed. You and your family will forever be a part of the Pinehurst family and taken care of. Our deepest and sincerest condolences.”
Several days later at a memorial service for one of the members of the city’s Thin Gold Line, Chief Rebecca Hoffman would utter a phrase that is now emblazoned above the City’s memorial monument for fallen members of the agency:
“There are no good-byes. Only, until we see each other again.”
Author’s note: Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day and reading some of my additions to emergency dispatching world. I want to personally thank Adam Timm and all at The Healthy Dispatcher for taking a chance on a random dispatcher through social media. He helped me complete the task necessary and I am indebted to him and truly hope our paths cross again soon.
About Adam Timm:
Adam Timm is the president and founder of The Healthy Dispatcher. A 9-1-1 telecommunicator with the Los Angeles Police Department for over a decade, Adam now provides leadership training and consulting to PSAPs around the country. He is the author of three books, including the popular, Dispatcher Stress: 50 Lessons on Beating the Burnout, and, “People Driven Leadership: How the Best 9-1-1 Centers Inspire Positive Change,” both available on Amazon.com.
For more articles visit: https://thehealthydispatcher.