My first memory.. and mind you.. I'm over thirty now.. so it's slipping. But my first memory of police in my life was Don Rosine. I know that alot of men had held the title of peace maker in my small little town, but he's the only one that I can truly remember. I remember almost nightly seeing Don, crusing in his patrol car down Walnut St, just as the sun was about to set, a strange smile on his face. I remember how much he cared about everyone he met on the job and for some strange reason, I always figured when I was a kid that if there was a problem.. he'd probably always know what to do. I never realized until many years later how truly tough his job must have been and what a tremendous man he was to do it.
I don't ususally tell people what I do. A majority of the time, when I do explain it to someone who doesn't know me, I can see in there eyes that they don't really get it. You get alot of people out there that judge you for being in law enforcement. You never know. It's a mixed reaction. So after awhile, I just stopped saying.
When I first started in this career, I was a 20 something college dropout who had no idea what I wanted out of life. I started this job to get out of one I hated. Personally I had no expections. Anything would have been better than what I had done prior and I was open for anything.
But when you first walk into a police department, everyone looks at you with kind eyes that have a touch of pity in them. Because they know what your about to step into.. and you definately do not. Nobody really can prepare you. Explaining it isn't enough.
Make no mistake, last month was my fifth year in my field.. and every month, day, hour, minute and second I have done it, it has not only been rewarding, but some of the most challenging days of my life. I have loved and still love what I do.
But when I see new people coming into the "hot seat" as it's called, I too, look at them with a touch of pity in my eyes. They have no idea what is about to happen to them and how much it will change their lives. Some do not make it. Some know immediately it is not for them.
I was never very good at anything.
I was terrible at sports.
I can not do math to save my life.
I didn't finish college.
The one thing I knew immediately, was that this job was something I was naturally good at.. and it came easy to me. It still does.
So I stayed and have been hooked ever since.
But the reason I don't explain my job anymore.. the reason I look at those new people with a slight touch of pity.. is exactly what I didn't know when I first took my seat in the chair... you will never face a job that will come so close to breaking you than being a public safety dispatcher. You are the first person that is confronted with what ever tradegy that has just come over your radio or your phone.
You put up walls. You build safety's around your heart. Your mind is like little rooms that you can close the doors to when you are done with the madness that is your job.
You become harder. You become a bit cold.
If you didn't, it would make you crazy.
I had a new person to the field ask me recently, "What exactly DOES effect you?" as if I wasn't human.
I have heard things that have effected me for a very long time. To be honest, there are many things that I have dealt with years ago, that I still think about on a daily basis. You never want to hear a mother pleading with you that her baby isn't breathing, a daughter reporting that her father has a gun to her mother's head or an officer taking fire. All of which I have heard.. All of which I have had to try to find some solution for. I have heard things that would break your heart. Things that still break mine.. But that is your job. That is what you get paid to do. You have to do it.
I have been apart of some things that I wished I hadn't. I have watched alot of good people make wrong choices and do very bad things. I have heard people die inside the phone. I can imagine it isn't pretty to see, because it is most definately not pretty to hear.
I have consoled the grieving widow.
I have counseled the beaten wife.
I have protected thousands of people I have never gotten to meet.
That's quite a weight to have on 30 year old shoulders. ( Maybe that's why they hurt so much :)
But the other side of my job that people don't know about, or don't get to see... is the GOOD side.. the baby that came back to life.. the kids who risked there lives to call 911 to protect there mom.. the babies getting delivered.. the car chases that end in getting the bad guy.. Putting those people in jail that deserve it. Women who have done heroic things.. men who have risked there lives to help someone they never met..
All of those things I have gotten to be on the other end of the line for.
It restores my faith in mankind.
It restores my faith in myself.
It keeps me coming back the next day.
I have met some of the most amazing men and women in charge of protecting you each day. I am beyond lucky.
My faith in myself was a little tested this week. Taking a call from Hoonah during the most horrendous thing that no dispatcher wants to ever hear happen. I can't say that I haven't been a little shaken by that. I hope that in some small way, I helped make that situation easier. That's all I can hope.
So I write this today, for all the dispatchers out there. For all the police, fire and ems workers out there.. and in memory of our two fallen brothers in Alaska.
Tommorrow I start a new week. A fresh week.. and a good week I hope it will be..