First responder recalls losing sleep over cries for help during hurricane

First responder recalls losing sleep over cries for help during hurricane

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dispatcher Traci Watson expected to get a good night’s sleep after staying in the government center for seven days during Hurricane Florence. She laid her head down on her own pillow, closed her eyes, but instead of a lullaby, she heard the countless pleas for help from the calls she received during the storm.

“It was call, after call, after call, it never stopped," said Watson. "There were people we couldn’t help and those were the people that stayed with me when I went home.”

Those calls weren’t only from normal, everyday people. They were from first responders as well. The ones tasked with saving civilians needed saving themselves.

“You see somebody who’s a first responder in trouble, that’s a family member," said Watson. "That’s a family member. You don’t know what’s going on; its heart wrenching.”

Mental strain was added for Watson and her fellow dispatchers because they had minimal contact with their families. It was up in the air to them whether or not their own families were safe and out of harms way.

“People were texting family members on their phone, people were saying goodbye," said Watson. "We didn’t know if we were going to see some of our families again. We didn’t know if they were out there getting damage or fatalities from the tornadoes that were hitting all over.”

With the influx of calls and thoughts of home on their brains, they still had a job do. The focus had to be on the people who they did know were in danger.

“The calls just kept coming and coming, you’re really not thinking,” said Watson. "You’re just taking that call one after another, hoping anything you’re saying is helping that person on the other line.”

Over a year later, Watson said she still hears the calls, but with the help of her fiance, she’s come to terms with knowing she’s done all she can for those who ask for help.

“Its really hard sometimes but that’s the general sacrifices we all sign up for, so we embrace it the best we can.”

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