Cut Short. Tragedy shows dispatcher the best people can give.
Tragedy has a
way of bringing out the best in people. We want to console and, in a world
crushed by profound loss. We want to do more than simply say, I’m sorry.”
Jenkins, a dispatcher for Porter County (Ind.) 911, personal tragedy showed her
the generosity of a town where she was born, attended school, married, and
raised two children. The kindness of coworkers, friends, and neighbors has
continued long after the darkest moment of her life.
here for me,” Nancy said. “During the times I didn’t want to live, they helped
me move on.”
Jenkins lost her older daughter Kelly (Mercaldo)
in October 2008. The junior at Valparaiso High School (Ind.) was a passenger in
a speeding car that went airborne over an elevated railroad crossing. The
16-year-old National Honor Society member was critically injured, her neck
broken from the force of the crash against a tree.
Due to the
severity of her injury, Kelly was airlifted to a trauma center in Oak Lawn, ILL.
Nancy, who was visiting out of town when the accident occurred, knew the
prognosis could be bleak. The plane she was able to catch, thanks to the
diligence of coworkers, brought her to Kelly’s bedside.
dispatchers got me home that night,” Nancy said, noting the dozens of calls made
to her cell phone before coworkers finally made contact over the hotel line.
“Had they not tracked me down, I may have never seen Kelly during those final
hundred people attended Kelly’s funeral, including every single teacher she had
since kindergarten. The three flower shops in town ran out of flowers.
Dispatcher from a neighboring county offered to fill in during their off time so
everyone from Porter County 911 could attend services. A memorial bench placed
in the high school courtyard, funded through dispatcher and police officer
donations, bears Kelly’s favorite symbol, a peace sign. Friend’s still leave
messages on Kelly’s My’Space page.
attributes the concern and the tremendous outpouring of support to the lifetime
spent in Valparaiso and Kelly’s popularity. Nancy has been a dispatcher for the
past nine years and the girls’ father, Vic Mercaldo, has been a
firefighter/paramedic for 20 years. Their daughter Abby is a sophomore at the
same high school.
is part of the county’s fabric,” Nancy said. “The girls grew up here, everyone
two months away from work, coming back when she could no longer endure the
silence when alone at home and the feeling that Kelly was coming through the
door every time she heard it open. She needed work away from home as a break
from her bleak reality.
Abby have good days and bad. A good day might be marked by a few words or a hug
exchanged between close friends. A bad day might be a call Nancy takes at the
9-1-1 center keenly reminding her of Kelly’s accident. When overwhelmed, a
coworker will take over, giving her a moment of respite.
Nancy has a
hard time finding the right words when saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem enough.
Sometimes, she believes Kelly is doing the job for her. “She leaves me a piece
sign,” Nancy said. “She wants us to know she’s good. She wants us to know we’ll
be all right.
National Academies of Emergency Dispatch