More Street Stories

Dispatcher Appreciation Week



The Thin Gold Line


Between the Thin Red Line, the Thin Blue Line and the Thin White Line lies the Thin Gold Line. This narrowest of lines represents those who are rarely seen but always heard and appreciated. The calm voice in the dark, the heroes behind the scenes, the Golden Link that holds it all together:



By Thonie Hevron

The week of April 10-16, 2016 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Appreciation week, also known as Dispatcher Appreciation Week.  Dispatchers answer most of the incoming calls to public safety departments, assess and route the 911 calls, take appropriate action (some centers provide EMD-Emergency Medical Dispatch which means a dispatcher will direct the caller in first aid techniques to mitigate problems until the arrival of fire-fighters/paramedics) and relay important information to officers in the field. There is so much more they do: keep locations of patrol units in their heads as well as updated on the computer, provide confidential information when needed, recall bad guys’ dates of birth, listen for a tone in an officer’s voice to indicate trouble or need or whatever…

Telecommunicators Week began in California in 1981 and quickly grew to national recognition. Just ten years later, Congress designated the second full week of each April as a time to remember the critical role that dispatchers play in keeping us all safe.

Yesterday, the Sonoma County dispatchers celebrated twenty years of April Dispatcher Appreciation get-togethers. The venue was Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park and the event was well attended. My estimate was over one hundred dispatchers, retired and active-duty, as well as managers and department heads.

the usual suspectsHere is a mug shot of the usual suspects: Kathleen, Daralyn, Kathrina, and Jan are seated. I’m standing next to Natalie and Carli. Here are the faces of the women who calmed the mother of the dead baby down enough to get an address (not all calls are on landlines), who woke the fire-fighters up for the inferno next door, and the dispatcher who stayed on the phone with a young caller who heard an intruder in her home.

I’ve been through a lot with these women. There’s a bond that transcends distance and time. All but three are retired now. During the luncheon, someone brought up Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Natalie asked the table, “How many of you have trouble sleeping?” To a person, we all raised a hand. It was a little humbling to realize that we all have scars from the job. But we live with them and temper the ghosts with fun memories of camaraderie, blowing off steam, and the knowledge of a job well done. The general public will never see these things and that’s just fine by us. We know we did what we were supposed to do—trained to do.

If you don’t notice when you’re on the phone with us, that’s fine with us.


Writer's Notes

A Moment to Savor

By Thonie Hevron

As an Army brat, we traveled while I was growing up. One of my earliest memories was of making friends with Patsy Simmons, another brat in my military housing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. We were friends for the three years I lived there. When we moved back to the states, I never saw her again. I didn’t have much time to make new friends in Tacoma, Washington (Fort Lewis posting) in the next six months because we were unpacking, then packing again to go home to Mill Valley, California. Before I was twelve, we’d bought and sold three homes in that small town. Moving seemed to be a part of life like taxes. In one school, my class began to learn old math, the next school, I’d just missed learning “new” math. I still have issues with the multiplications tables. Still, I became adept at making friends, because I had to do it over and over.

All this has less to do with computation skills than giving you a glimmer of who I am. As a kid and young adult, I yearned for one place to call home. In 1966, my mother finally found a house she wanted to settle in Mill Valley. After attending three different schools in in this quaint Northern California town, I enrolled in “Our Lady of Mount Carmel” elementary school. I started in the sixth grade. Being tall for my age, I was always at the end of the line. No worries, I was used to it. But at Mount Carmel, there was a girl even taller! I began to feel at home as I caught up socially and academically. Thus began a fifty-two year friendship with Helen.

High school was even more satisfying. At Marin Catholic, I was introduced to college prep education. In this school, there were children of “successful” parents—one owned a Ford dealership, another was the grandson of a major maritime shipping line, many were children of attorneys and doctors. Being the child of a master sergeant, then a Deputy US Marshal, I felt like I didn’t fit in. While my mother made most of my clothes, I didn’t appreciate the uniqueness. “Store-bought” is what the other kids had; why couldn’t I have that, too? Oh, we don’t have enough money? Okay.

Scholastically, I was an average student. I chose to daydream and goof off rather than apply myself. My friends at Marin Catholic centered on Jan (who came to MC in our sophomore year) and Helen. I felt gratified when the “popular” kids spent time with me and my pals. We didn’t hang out a lot because in those days, I eschewed the prom queen and cheer leaders for “hippier” people. Socially, I was sure I was somewhere in the middle between the “ducks” and the “cool kids.” I’m not so sure, now.

All my moving around made me want to be like everyone else even more.

When my class graduated, my friends went on to college and flourished as nurses, teachers, a Stanford professor, top executives with IBM and such. I spent the next thirty-five years in police stations.

Marin Catholic Class of 70 Christmas Luncheon 2012
Marin Catholic Class of 70 Christmas Luncheon 2012

Fast forward forty-four years (OMG!): Since our 40th high school reunion, many of us have found we enjoy each other’s company so much that we don’t want to wait another decade to visit. In the four years since our big “40th,” many of us have gotten to know each other even better. Annual dinner parties, picnics and even a girls’ sleep-over one weekend are examples of the fun we have together.

Our annual 2014 dinner party was scheduled for August 26 at Rickey’s in Novato, Ca. I had a reading in Santa Rosa, 20 miles to the north, earlier in the day so I told the girls that I’d be a little late for pre-event drinks at the bar. On the drive down I made better time than I anticipated, so I was excited to see my friends and a little breathless at rushing around.

I walked into the bar and a dozen of my dear friends looked up and spontaneously cheered my arrival. “Hurray for Thonie!” and “Here’s our published author!” My chest could barely contain the gratitude I felt for all these accomplished women who saluted me. I felt like not only had I achieved my dreams but I had done something worthy of their attention. Truth is they probably would have shouted a grand hello to me anyway. I didn’t care. The honest spontaneity of the greeting made this a significant event. In years past, I might have yearned for it. I can’t remember that far back. But, it came that day, on its own schedule.

It was over quickly, as I grabbed a glass of champagne and joined them. I’ve never been good at being the focus of attention, even when I secretly enjoyed it.

No matter. It is in my heart forever.