December 5, 2020

Guest columnist shares 911 story

(Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Mr. Toby Nix is a former 911 employee and current deputy sheriff in Coweta County. We are pleased to announce he has agreed to share some of his writings with readers in future editions.)

Toby Nix

Toby Nix

I hear dead people… well not exactly, what I should say is that I hear people dying. I hear people crying. I hear people fighting. I hear people screaming.

Unfortunately for me, this is not some other worldly power that will land me in a movie opposite Bruce Willis. This is my job. I work for 911.

The place where everyone who is anyone calls in the most frantic and frightening moments of their lives. I have talked teenagers who had been in an auto accident through giving medical attention to their buddies. I have given CPR instructions to grown men who could barely hear me through their desperate cries of “DON’T LEAVE ME” to their wife of 40 years.

I have been on the line as hysterical mothers pulled their unattended infants from a swimming pool, so that we could begin CPR, hoping and praying that we would soon hear a baby crying in the background.

Here is the odd part, we all know a crying baby is not a happy baby, and no one wants to hear a crying baby. Except for those who have heard a “not crying” baby, the person on the phone with you, the people in the background and how they were handling the situation.

A crying baby is a breathing baby, and a breathing baby is a living baby. I would have never thought how sweet the sound of a crying baby could be to the ears before I worked at 911.

The first CPR call I ever took lasted a little more than 7 minutes. I had dreaded this call since my first day on the job. I knew it was coming; it was only a matter of time. I remember the call very vividly.

It took slightly more than 7 minutes from the time the gentleman called 911 to report his wife had gone into cardiac arrest to the time the firefighters were at his front door. That’s a good response time if you ask me. At the time however, that seven minutes felt like seven hours, both to me and my caller, I am sure.

You never get used to hearing grown men cry. I didn’t anyway. That’s not to say hearing anyone cry is easy, but to hear a grown man openly weeping does something to your ears. It’s not a sound I grew up hearing. I was born to a man’s man of a southern man.

I am of the generation where crying was met with the all too familiar “I’ll give you something to cry about.” parental response. It worked. I can’t think of any time in my childhood I ever wanted to call my father’s bluff on that one.

To this day, I’m fairly certain he would have given me something to cry about that was considerably worse than what I was already crying about. To answer calls at 911 is to hear people crying who most of the time, unfortunately, have “something to be crying about.” I wish my brain could forget what my ears have heard.

I wrote that above piece a few years ago, when I worked for 911. I have now switched to the other side of the public safety radio, and am currently a Deputy Sheriff. I absolutely love my job, the people I work with, and the citizens we serve.

My years at 911 taught me how to speak on the radio, and they taught me how to pretend to be calm and poised when I was neither calm nor poised.

However, 911 did not prepare me to see the scenes I had envisioned all those years. I have a very vivid imagination, but your imagination will never compare to reality. I wish my brain could forget what my eyes have seen.

At the end of the day, regardless of how good my memory is, I love my job. It’s a lucky man who gets to say that.

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