28 years ago I was a flight attendant looking for a different career path that required less travel. Perusing the local paper, I saw an employment ad for the position of a “Communication Specialist”. I thought to myself “What’s a communication specialist? That sounds interesting!” and decided to apply.
That moment changed my life.
I have never had any law enforcement experience in my life. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know exactly what this job entailed. I found out that the job would be answering 9-1-1 calls. I imagined myself sitting behind a desk, chatting on the phone and maybe every once in awhile jot something down. Easy breezy right?
Coming from an airline background, I could have instructed anyone how to disengage the left rear door of a Boeing 757 or coordinate an emergency water landing on an A-300 but this was a whole new ball game. I greatly underestimated the training and knowledge required I needed before I answered my first 9-1-1 call on my own. 6 weeks of classroom training, 4 weeks one on one training and tests, tests, and more tests.
And that was just non emergency.
More tests and more training after that. As a matter of fact it was about eight months of intense training until I was able to answer my first 9-1-1 call. I have never been challenged and stretched so much until I trained for this job. The sense of accomplishment and relief I felt when I was released to work on my own was indescribable.
Fast forward 27 years and I’m still here. Over these 27 years I have had to endure some of the most heart wrenching things no one should ever have to hear in their lifetime. My callers will never know that I’ve silently prayed for some of them. No one knew I cried internally while remaining strong to help and console a grieving mother. No one knows I was giving a virtual ‘high five’ to that bullied 11 year old I talked out of hurting himself. While the technology has changed over the years, my compassion, kindness and respect remains the same.
Every day I come to work I put myself in the caller’s shoes. This career has not only challenged me professionally but has given me an amazing amount of strength, kindness and compassion towards others. And to myself.
And that’s something that cannot be trained.