The Voice


Some of the worst things I have ever heard in my life have been told to me over a phone, or through the tiny holes of a radio receiver. A metallic voice that clamored in my ear with some form of news. I learned of my mother’s death over the phone. I was told about Colin being killed over the phone as well. They said he had been killed by an explosion while on mission. It’s a haunting explanation that I still hear to this day. When Greg died, when he – killed himself, I was awoken to the sound of my phone going off beside me. I was half tempted not to answer. At least, that’s what my hangover suggested for me to do – ignore it, and just go back to sleep. But I didn’t. Instead, I answered it, and listened to a saddened voice of a friend as they completed the reluctant task of telling me that Greg had died, and that it was by way of suicide. I remember hearing those chilling words break through the speaker and into my ear. I wasn’t lying, some of the worst things I have ever heard in my life, have come from a faceless voice over the phone, or through the radio.

This is the: WTF, dispatch look.

Over the course of my career, a voice would be all I had to rely on. It was an interesting dichotomy, they couldn’t see the emergency, yet they had to paint it for me. Through their words, I would come to learn just what I was responding to. Sometimes the shift would begin with the voice, cracking a joke or saying something lighthearted. Other times they were dispatching us right away. I never met the faces behind the voice. My minds eye imagined them though. Although I never knew them personally, I could always tell if it was going to be a bad call. Their voice would tell you, even if their words did not.


The voice once had the task of telling me about the four-month-old-baby girl. Informing me that was my next call. But they didn’t stop there; they said she was already dead, and that now, it was up to us to try and reverse that. The call came in like this:


“Alpha one-four, Alpha one-four, you are responding for a nine-echo, nine-echo-cardiac arrest. Patient is female, patient is… four-months-old… four-month-old-cardiac arrest…”


They say words speak to the soul. They can sooth a broken heart, or calm a worrying mind. But on that day, all those words did was pluck at my spine like a guitar string.


The voice also told me about the boy. On this occasion, their description of what lay ahead was a little lacking. I can’t blame them though, it’s really hard to accurately describe hell. That’s exactly what I walked into. I even had to descend a few dark, and rickety wooden stairs before getting there. Once there though, I observed as a fourteen-year-old boy, swung like a pendulum while suspended by his neck from the rafters within this dungeon of a basement. A fourteen-year-old-boy had hung himself. Hung himself, and wet himself. A sight not made for this world. Like I said, it was hell…


The voice also did a last call for a fallen paramedic. One of the saddest transmissions you will ever hear break through a radio. That’s one picture they paint to perfection – sadness.


For many years I listened to the voice. It directed me on where to go, and what to do. They were my only link to the emergency before arrival, and they became my only link to the outside world after arriving. They were as much of a lifeline as they were a nuisance. They would intrude at the most inopportune times. In fact, I swear the radio had eyes… After struggling with a quarrelsome utility belt, and its keepers, then removing your weighted radio, drug pouch, pager and sometimes keys, and unclasping the heavy-duty work pants, then descending to a crouched position to the toilet below – “Alpha one-four, Alpha one-four…” Like evil fucking psychics… Not to mention standing in line to get a coffee – don’t even think about it…

pants down

12 to 14 hours a day, day in, day out, night in, night out, the voice ruled all.


Sometimes, late at night, on nights like this one, I can still hear the voice. It calls to me from deep within my ear. A faint echo of the past. When I’m sleeping or, trying to sleep, it can call to me so vividly that I jettison from my bed, and stand rigid, ready, and waiting. A foolish sight to see I am sure – a man standing there, near naked and confused, thinking that he is being dispatched to an emergency that is years old. The emergencies are long gone. No more stabbings, assaults, spousal fights or drunken brawls. No more car accidents or motorcycle fatalities. No more elderly taking their last breath at the end of a full life, and no more young exhaling theirs before ever having lived. No more caskets draped in our nations flag. And no more fallen brothers (hopefully). The sirens are gone, and the lights are dim. That’s the reality. But in my mind, they are all still there, waiting in queue to be dispatched. Right when I least expect it. Just as the voice would have done it.


Sleep is now my commodity, not standing in line for coffee. Want to get some sleep? Don’t even think about it… The voice rules all…


If you’re reading this, that means I wrote this. And that means I was dispatched recently. Only to find myself standing in the lurch, coming to terms with the reality in front of me. A reality where there is no emergency, only memory. And in actuality there is no voice, only echoes of the past. One by one, I bring out the dead. Trying to save them all over again. It’s an odd feeling – being ready to go, yet having no destination… Odd indeed. I know one destination I certainly won’t be going to – sleep. Not any time soon anyway…


Once you’ve heard the voice, it becomes unforgettable. Once you’ve heard its messages of death, it becomes etched to you like a scar to skin. It’s a voice you never forget. Tone, pitch, drawl, depth, all of it – unforgettable. Even tinnitus can’t keep the voice away. Once you’ve heard it, there’s no changing that. Through phone and radio, I have heard the voice…



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