I Know My True North

Nicole McDaniel, Support Services Supervisor, Crowley Police Department

I know my true North. We all have our own. The moral compass inside where our integrity pulls the needle to your true North. I have been a Dispatcher (no, I am not offended to be called that-I know my worth) for 16 years and 2 agencies. I have dispatched police, fire, and EMS as well as medical emergency helicopters, fixed wings and ambulances in my career.

I have been one of the first people to hear a new life being born into this world and comforted someone who took their last breath so they wouldn’t die alone. I have heard one of my own family members calling for help and also listened to a stranger end their own life. I have heard the screams of those that found love ones dead and those that cry because they were abused again by a love one. I was the voice in the dark helping when an intruder was trying to break in and there to direct people to safety in a fire. I have dispatched during a tornado and slept at work to make sure there was relief during an ice storm. I make sure my Officers / Firefighters / Nurses / Paramedics go home. I have seen the randomness of bad and a miracle in the next breath. There is good and there is evil. Sounds dramatic, eh? I have also helped someone bake a turkey and kids do homework. I have called a cable company because an elderly person was confused and next answered the caller who wanted to know “Can the ambulance take me by the liquor store on the way to the hospital?”.

It is a fight to find that perfect emotional balance . I have a family that deserves all of me when I am at home. I can talk to my husband while at a restaurant attempting some semblance of normalcy and be completely engaged into what he is saying … and knowing that the couple next to us is fighting over the credit card bill, the other table has one graduating and going to college, while another table is having an affair. I don’t like drama but my mind splits, processing information rapidly, constantly prioritizing, and re-prioritizing while my true North pulls at me.

One question I am asked most often is do you ever cry or remember these calls? My answer is every call becomes a part of me in some way. Many calls make me better, refine my skills, and give me more confidence. Other calls, the emotionally harder ones, go into an imaginary shoe box that is placed on the shelf in my head/heart. I do this so I can make room for the next call. That call is still there and sometimes the box gets reopened. Sometimes I reopen an old box to help teach a newer Dispatcher. Writing this made me look into a couple of these boxes and remember. Yet, it must go back on the shelf because every person that calls 911 deserves to have 100% of my focus, ability, talent, dedication, courage, and strength every time.

My true North is always present and always is true. I will always know my worth because I choose to define my profession not by money but what difference I know I have made. This is the path I chose and I do not regret a single minute.