If I could tell you one thing...


I spent years within the trenches of 9-1-1 dispatch. I took calls from people who wanted to kill themselves. I listened on an open line while a couple fought over their troubled marriage. I helped a mother give CPR to her child who had been dead for hours and cried after one of my deputies told me what really happened. I struggled to work in dispatch knowing that my entire family was with my grandmother as she slowly left us and was much closer to my grandfather in heaven. The hair on the back of my neck stood up when the phone rang and it was my cousin, telling me that our grandmother passed away. I stayed focused as a brother screamed in agony over the loss of his own brother. I put myself in his shoes. In the back of my head I ached for this man. He made a mistake by giving his suicidal brother a loaded gun. It ended tragically and for my part, I sent help. I couldn’t save his brother, but I did what I could. After my shift, the only thing that helped was to call my own brother and tell him that I loved him.

My time in dispatch taught me many things. It taught me that life is precious and that we should cherish it. 9-1-1 shows you how life can change in an instant. The job indeed taught me many things but what it did not prepare me for was the heart ache that would hit my home. This job takes a toll on you. The stress can be overwhelming and sometimes it cannot be turned off at home. I recently had a conversation with my wife and 14-year-old son, and they told me how hard it was for them. It took a toll on them as I was there physically, but I was not there mentally. My mind would be elsewhere. It would be scrambled from the night before. The hard calls that I wouldn’t share with them at first, the amount of overtime and lack of family time. The fact that my wife was a single parent for most of my dispatch career, took a toll on her, but she held us all together. Thank you.

It's a hard pill to swallow and I’ve been out of dispatch for almost six years. Sure, we finally talked about it then but now…now it is coming out even more. It’s a good thing because we finally understand each other but one thing that sticks out is a comment from my son. At the end of our conversation he said, “You can’t miss what you never had…” This was in response to me asking if he had anything else to say in regard to how it was when I was in dispatch and if he missed out on anything. It hit me pretty hard and it made me think of the responses to my wife’s question for 9-1-1 dispatchers, “What is one thing you would like your family to know about your job as a 9-1-1 dispatcher?”

I have thought about this myself and if I could tell you one thing it would be that I am sorry. If I could tell you one thing it would be that every time, I worked overtime I wanted to be with you. Every call I took where a mom and her children were hiding from someone who was breaking in, I thought of you. I prayed that you would be safe while I was helping others at work. If I could tell you one thing it would be that when I got text messages with pictures or videos of you growing up without me, I smiled and cried. If I could tell you one thing it would be that while you were both living your lives without me at home that I wasn’t just working, that I wasn’t just answering the phone, that I was listening to people scream, yell, cry and die on the phone with me. If I could tell you one thing it’s that somehow, I was able to keep track of all of you. This includes you, Richie. If I could tell you one last thing it would be that even though you feel as though you can’t miss what you never had, I was always there and that I love you more than anything. Whether it was over the phone, in pictures, while half-awake from working 16-hour days, I was there, and I love you…

Ricardo Martinez IIComment