Dear Caller

Dear Caller,

Today is the worst day of your life. When you pick up the phone, pleading for help it is I who answer. I know my voice sounds calm. But my hands shake as I try to make sense of what you tell me. My tone remains even as I gently repeat my questions. All the while, my heart hammers in my chest.

Somehow, with the help of technology and the few words you give me, I determine your location and help is started. At first, you don’t believe me when I tell you this. You keep screaming for me to hurry. I check the call time. Twenty-five seconds since I answered the phone. Again, I assure you help is on the way.

Now, it’s just you and me.

The lights and sirens are a long way off and the only thing I can do is tell you how to help yourself. I know your name now. I say it over and over until your breathing slows and I know you hear me. I have to be careful. It only takes one wrong word to lose you. I have to think fast and keep our connection.

My hands work better now that the screaming stopped. I take a deep breath and begin. I’m glad I got your call today. Years of experience have prepared me to help you. Yours is the worst kind of call. The new kids here would be traumatized.

But you see, I’m already damaged. I’ve had this call before. I know what to do. Even after I hang up and the adrenaline wears off. When the tears threaten and I have to pick up the next call.

I know after this I will go home and not tell my family about you. I will try and pretend like it didn’t happen. Later, I’ll talk to a co-worker who has experienced the same thing. I’ll tell her how I can’t sleep. That I can still hear your voice. How I still feel your pain. She’ll tell me to give it time. She may advise me to see a professional. If it doesn’t stop soon, I know I will have to.

You’ll never know me. But I will always know you. When you call me and ask for my help, I give you my best. I don’t know if it is enough. I don’t know if it will make a difference. I tell myself it will. It’s the only way I can come back tomorrow and do it all again.

Even though you don’t know my name, from this moment on we are forever linked. I will never forget you. No matter how hard I try.

Your worst day is also mine.

—    A. Benedetti
911 Operator/Writer

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