‘I don’t want to live anymore. I’m going to jump off the bridge,” he said.
A lump formed in my throat, and the only thing I remember was typing faster than I had ever typed before. A zip tone sounded as I sent the call to queue for help to respond. Although this was likely one of the most terrifying moments in my life, I had to remember that I was the direct line of communication between a defeated man and someone who could potentially save his life.
I continued to ask questions until I gathered all of the information. Next, I became the listening ears I later found out this man needed. He shared with me his story of despair, having found his childhood friend dead in his apartment earlier that morning. With no family or friends in the area, he was feeling helpless and alone. His own daughter wanted nothing to do with him, he was pained to say. This man confided in me during his search for a reason to live, and I was going to do everything I could in order to prevent him from hurting himself. I heard sniffles coming from the other end of the line and reassured him that help was on the way, that there was a reason to live.
Not too long after, a deep man’s voice in the background asked if my caller was OK. I told him that he should speak to the police officer and that I would be disconnecting the phone. After a brief pause, the man thanked me. Again there was a pause, but this time it was followed by words that would stick with me forever:
“Thank you for talking to me and staying on the phone. I don’t think I would still be here if you would’ve hung up.” His voice trembled as he let me go. “Good job, operator.”
After years of working miscellaneous customer-service-related jobs ranging from retail to health insurance, I finally found a career that had meaning to me. I had received my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology and had always wished to serve my community. However, unlike my brother — who, I joke, had known he wanted to be a police officer from the day he was born — I was never sure what my purpose was. I often wonder why it can take some people a lifetime to decide what they want to do with their lives, while others simply seem to know what they were meant to do.
Perhaps it was luck, or maybe it was fate, but whatever the case may be, I stumbled upon this life-changing opportunity to become a 911 operator. Every day I continue to learn and thrive. Undoubtedly, working in an emergency communications center has been the most challenging role I have ever pursued, but it also remains the best decision I have ever made. The moment I stopped making excuses for myself and settling for what I was already comfortable with was the moment I opened my future up to prosperity.
I assist individuals who are having a crisis or experiencing life-threatening emergencies. I am able to comfort them and provide strength in their moments of weakness. Whether someone’s car is being broken into, a business is getting robbed at gunpoint or an elderly woman is having a heart attack, I am the person who sends first responders to the location in order to help. Like I’ve always said, if I can do something each day to help someone, that makes every day worth it. In the midst of chaos, I finally found my purpose.
Rachel Pond lives in Rosemount.