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A subdued '9-1-1 day'

Dispatchers mark their day — but in a subdued way

PROVO — Sept. 11 used to be a day when emergency dispatchers got a big pat on the back.

The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, however, have pushed the 9-1-1 recognitions into the shadows.

Most people are unaware that today is 9-1-1 day, a day President Ronald Reagan picked in the 1980s to honor emergency dispatchers.

Dana Ferre', Provo's 911 communications manager remembers well the day the World Trade Center towers fell.

She was bushed after working day and night to prepare for the dispatchers' annual retreat, but her sleepy eyes opened wide as she witnessed the first plane hitting the World Trade Center while watching her television.

"Initially, news reporters were speculating it was an accident, however, my career working in law enforcement had skewed my positive outlook," Ferre' said. "I believed it was terrorism from the beginning."

Minutes later, a second plane smashed into the other tower, confirming her thoughts of terrorism.

What was supposed to be a happy day celebrating her profession had turned into a tragedy.

The decorations she had spent so long hanging up seemed irrelevant now. Things were different, and the celebration just didn't seem important.

"When I entered the dispatch center . . . I looked around and saw my dispatchers," Ferre' said. "Some were in tears, some were angry and others were speaking with concerned callers."

911 day at Provo City Dispatch would never be the same. But, Ferre' believes the recognition day needs to continue because the work dispatchers do needs to be recognized.

Dispatchers are used to being out of the spotlight, Ferre' said. They work behind-the-scenes, comforting people during their times of need.

"There was very little said about the 911 dispatchers that were holding the helm during the storm," Ferre' said, referring to the terrorist acts. "But, sometimes a thank-you is in order. This was one of those times."

After the events on Sept. 11, 2001, Provo dispatchers considered using a different day to celebrate their profession. They questioned if the celebration would detract from the importance of the victims and their families.

"We started thinking about what 911 dispatchers are all about," Ferre' said. "We are that beacon in the night. We are that hope that people have. When everything is going bad in their life, they call us, We're helping in a disaster. We make sense out of chaos."

After much discussion, dispatchers decided it was very pertinent and appropriate to continue celebrating 911 Day on Sept. 11.

Provo City Dispatch will honor its employees today at a special ceremony in the City Council Chambers at 1:30 p.m.

"It used to be a real celebration with balloons and happy time," Ferre' said. "Now it's more subdued, but we still take honor in our profession on the same day."


E-MAIL: ldethman@desnews.com