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GUEST COLUMN: Incredible dispatcher went above and beyond

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Trina Smith

There is a hidden gem in Sarnia’s midst and not many people appreciate it. I do and here is why.

A number of years ago, our son was struggling with depression, a mental illness that many people don’t understand. Even with medical and family support, my son was suffering and didn’t know how to cope. One evening, he sent an email to an online friend in California implying he was going to take his life.

As we taught Internet privacy and security to our children, his friend didn’t know his real name or his contact information. She just knew he lived in Sarnia, Ontario. She phoned the Sarnia Police from California and told them what was happening. At first, they thought there was nothing they could do, as they had no name or address. But, the “hidden gem” stepped forward.

A dispatcher at the police department realized that our son’s contact information could be found through his email address. She contacted the email provider and explained the circumstances, but they refused to give out the information. She didn’t give up, but asked the staff sergeant to speak to them. It took a lot of time and persistence but the police finally convinced them this was an emergency.

We were at home when two police officers knocked at our door. They tentatively asked if we had a teenage son who used a computer. They came in and talked to our son, who admitted he had taken an overdose.

The compassion and kindness they showed will always be remembered but, without the help of the police dispatcher, my son may not be alive today.

What happened in the dispatch office that night was not told to us at the time, so we weren’t aware of what had happened. So, with no thanks and no recognition, the dispatcher just went on with her job.

Some years later, while working a contract at the police station, I happened to tell my story in the coffee room. A girl, sitting opposite, stared at me and then told me she was the dispatcher that had saved my son’s life that night.

Without skipping a beat and with tears in my eyes, I stood up, walked over to her and gave her the biggest hug I had.

So, when you call 911, remember the people who work 24 hours a day, to not only keep us and our police officers safe, but who care enough to go above and beyond for the people in their community.

Trina Smith is a retired social worker whose time is spent with her two children, three granddaughters, volunteering, and many hobbies


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