LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas Fire and Rescue dispatchers were honored Tuesday for their response during the 1 October tragedy. A total of nineteen 9-1-1 operators answered hundreds of calls in a matter of hours that night.
Some of the dispatchers were just coming off their probation period the night of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, while others had a couple of decades under their belt. But regardless of experience, they worked as one team to handle an unprecedented volume of 9-1-1 calls.
"It's nice, but I mean I signed up for this job, so I really don't expect recognition," said Mone Foster, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue dispatcher.
Although the dispatchers are very humbled and honored for their work during 1 October, the organization, '911 For Kids,' still wanted to award a team of 19 professionals with the 911 heroes medal of honor.
"It was a night that I will never forget," said Jacquelyn Ridley, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue dispatcher.
"When we got the first call, we really couldn't believe it," Foster said.
"It was just one call after another," said Matt Grogan, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue dispatcher. "A lot of people just looking for guidance."
Multi-tasking for nine-hours, the 9-1-1 operators were processing hundreds of calls from the public and from emergency crews.
"I talked to people hiding in closets; I talked to people that were hiding in trash compactors," Grogan said.
"Some people were calling to give their last wishes as far as if they didn't make it out," said Ridley.
The fire department has procedures for mass casualty events, but the overwhelming number of calls on 1 October forced them to improvise.
"Many people don't know about the dispatchers or communications specialist because they're behind the scenes, but that's where all the calls come from and that's where you hear the grief, and the panic, and terror that someone is experiencing right as it's happening," said William McDonald, the fire chief for the City of Las Vegas.
The team of 19 dispatchers were able to remain calm as chaos spread throughout the Las Vegas Strip.
"If we're panicked, we're going to make the people even more panicked," said Foster.
"It was a night that we had the opportunity to experience in about 10 minutes, what we've been trained to do," said Ridley.
"Most of us afterward felt numb; you know, we really weren't sure what just happened," said Grogan.
The dispatchers also said they each dealt with the trauma of working that night differently. Some dealt with it by sleeping, crying, praying, and talking.
The City of Las Vegas also provided help resources throughout the weeks following the shooting.
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