Answering the Call: Coral Springs 911 dispatchers reflect one year after MSD shooting

(WSVN) - It has been nearly one year since they took the hardest 911 calls of their careers. Now, dispatchers on the job during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas describe the impact that day had on them professionally and personally. 7’s Brian Entin has our special report “Answering the Call.”

Dispatcher: “Coral Springs Police and Fire…”

It was early afternoon on Feb. 14, 2018, inside the Coral Springs Police and Fire Emergency Communications Center.

Kathy Liriano, communications administrator: “It was a normal day in the office.”

Christina Young, dispatcher: “It wasn’t that busy. It was just pretty, you know, routine.”

Patrick Thurman, communications supervisor: “It may have been a little slower than normal, actually, and then the call came in.”

Patrick Thurman (during 911 call): “911, what’s your emergency?”

The time was 2:22 p.m.

Supervisor Patrick Thurman took the first 911 call.

Patrick Thurman: “It sounded like a girl.”

Caller (during 911 call): “Hello. We’re at Stoneman Douglas High School, and I think there’s a shooter.”

Patrick Thurman: “And hear several shots being fired in the background.”

Patrick Thurman (during 911 call): “Hello? You still there?”

Kathy Liriano: “And then the phones started ringing.”

The calls from panicked students and teachers started pouring in.

Dispatcher (during 911 call): “911, what’s your emergency?”

Caller (during 911 call): “Please help! Please help! Someone shot at my school.”

Dispatcher (during 911 call): “Stay on the phone with me. I know you’re very scared, OK? Honey, I know. I’m really sorry that you’re going through this, but I’m here with you, OK? Is there any way that the door can lock? Is the teacher in there with you?”

Caller (during 911 call): “Yes, the door is locked. My teacher is on the phone too, I think, but he shot a window in.”

Communications Administrator Kathy Liriano jumped in to help.

Kathy Liriano: “You could hear the gunshots through the phones, so I ran and just picked up the first console that had a phone available.”

Kathy Liriano (during 911 call): “911, what is your emergency?”

Caller (during 911 call): “Hi. There’s gunshots.”

Kathy Liriano: “The first call was with a teacher.”

Caller (during 911 call): “I’m in a classroom. The light’s on. The door’s locked. A student was shot. It went through the door. It went through the door. It went through the door.”

Kathy Liriano: “I had to make sure to keep my composure to get as much information as I could.”

Kathy Liriano (during 911 call): “How many students do you have in your classroom?”

Caller (during 911 call): “I think I have about 24.”

The gunfire lasted six minutes.

Christina Young: “At one point they asked for the Medical Examiner.”

Brian Entin: “So when did it hit you?”

Kathy Liriano: “Probably when we finally got relief.”

Brian Entin: “Tell me about that.”

Kathy Liriano: “Can you stop?”

Brian Entin: “Sure, yeah.”

Brian Entin: “What the Coral Springs dispatchers didn’t see on Feb. 14, they heard, and those sounds and voices have had a lasting impact on them one year later.”

Kathy Liriano: “For us, PTSD is real, and it happens.”

Counselors and therapy dogs are still helping dispatchers.

Kathy even got a call from one of the few people who could relate — a manager at the dispatch center in Las Vegas.

Five months earlier, he went through the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Kathy Liriano: “He reached out to me right after and was like, ‘Look, this is going to be a bumpy ride.'”

A bumpy ride because so many of these dispatchers have kids of their own.

Patrick Thurman: “Your first reaction as a parent is, ‘I want to go there and help defend them and save them,’ but you can’t.”

Christina Young: “Every teenager, all of them who were able to run out to their mom and their dad, and embrace them. They’re who I think about.”

The somber anniversary marking 17 lives lost will be painful for so many in the community, including the men and women who work here, who continue to do their jobs every day.

Kathy Liriano: “It’s hard to come back, but at the same time no because you know you have to take that next call.”

Patrick Thurman: “911, what’s your emergency?”

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