After a long and emotional court battle, the 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that happened nearly a year ago were released to the public on Wednesday.
Despite protests from some of the victims' families, a judge released the audio recordings because he hopes they can be used by law enforcement for training on active shooter situations. The judge also said the calls illustrate the courage displayed by everyone from first responders to dispatchers.
At 911 Centers like Norcom inBellevue, dispatchers say they thought of their comrades in Newtown,Connecticut the instant they learned of the shooting last December.
Absolutely, it's a brotherhood, it's a sisterhood, said dispatcher Amanda Koling. They hurt and you hurt. You can put yourself in their position and feel the anxiousness and the stress and the compassion, and just feel that weight with them.
Koling's been a dispatcher for 11 years and now supervises the team at Norcom. She says all of their training is designed to help them through the tough calls for help, like the ones that came in during the Sandy Hook Shooting.
Hearing the calm, steady focus of the dispatchers there as they fielded those calls made Koling proud.
At the same time, she knows they will be deeply impacted by what they heard that day. In the calls, dispatchers can be heard urging teachers to stay calm, lock their classroom doors, and keep children away from windows. One teacher called 911 after being shot in the foot, and dispatchers calmly instructed her on how to put pressure on the wound. In other calls, gunshots can be heard in the background.
It can be a heavy burden. It's like a firefighter or a policeman, they do the same thing over and over, said Koling. You know, eventually it chips away at your core.
She says that's one of the reasons the Sandy Hook 911 calls will be used as a teaching tool for the Norcom team, and likely 911 centers just like it across the country.
They're tender morsels of training tidbits that we take with us, she said.
Oftentimes during situations like Sandy Hook, there are chaplains and grief counselors on hand, not just for friends and families of the victims, but dispatchers as well.
Koling says certain calls stay with you forever.