Saturday, Simchat Torah, I was staying at a family in Elad. 6:30 a.m I woke up and was on my way to the synagogue for the holiday celebrations when I started hearing the Iron Dome, working non-stop. 7:45 all dispatchers received a message to report to the station. I contacted the operations officer, who he asked me to drive to Ben Gurion Airport, where reserve ambulances are stationed, and provide backup in the region. That was when I realized something extremely out of the ordinary was going on.
About 9:30 I was back in the dispatch center, responding to calls. Hundreds of calls.
The computer screens portrayed an ominous scenario: dozens of wounded in serious condition, corpses on the streets. Each call I took was harder than the other. I am well trained in providing professional response in times of emergency or even during terror attacks. The teams race to the scene, provide life-saving treatment and quickly evacuate the victims to hospital. But now I found myself helpless.
Out in the field, the teams struggled to reach the victims, as the massacre kept on going. Civilians on the line begged for us to save their lives. We stayed with them on line as they told us terrorists are invading their house, as their homes were set on fire, and as they were murdered.
We did our best in assessing the situation and dispatching our teams to scene, but they were in the middle of a battlefield and there was no way of reach some of them.
While the civilians were just beginning to learn about the situation, the dispatch center had already built a clear image of the significant incidents unfolding.
We received calls from people in the music festival who were hiding from terrorists in bushes, from families locked in secure room as terrorists threw in grenades, our own teams who were murdered in cold blood. We realized each ambulance we dispatched got shot. The citizens of Israel were under fire, our medical teams were under fire, and everyone was in mortal danger.
We carried out conversations with 10 year olds, who told us their parents were murdered in front of their eyes. We instructed them how to place a tourniquet….
We received one call after the other, non-stop. We did the best in our efforts, yet each call was more painful than the other, and the sense of anxiousness and hopelessness deepened.
One call which was engraved in me was of a girl from Be’eri who told us terrorists invaded her house. She was with her family inside the secure room when terrorist threw grenades inside. She told us that she and her father were shot.
I instructing her on how to place the tourniquet when terrorist came inside the room and she hanged up. After a while, she called us once again. I made a video call with her via my personal phone, instructed her to stay quiet and to show me her father’s injuries. I learned her mother and brother were killed. The girl was suffering from gunshot wounds in her leg and was not able to move. She told us her father is wheezing.
Through the video call I could see her surroundings. Shrapnel was spread all across the room, the father was unconscious and breathing, multiple gunshot wounds in his leg. I asked her to crawl to the closet and take a piece of clothing from which she will be able to improvise a tourniquet for her father, when suddenly terrorist showed up in the room’s entrance. She disappeared. I lost touch with her.
I was left feeling oblivious and powerless, not knowing if she was abducted or killed.
Throughout the next few days I kept on checking her WhatsApp, see if she was online and if there was any sign of life. We found nothing.
Several days have past. A shift manager, college of mine, informed us that her husband drove to the south that Saturday to provide aid to the victims. That day he treated and evacuated to hospital a girl and the father, which he believed to be the same ones.
A few weeks later we were fortunate to meet the girl in a rehabilitation department in Tel Hashomer hospital. She and her father had survived. The father’s leg was amputated as a result of the severity of the injuries.
After seeing her injured on that phone call and hearing her say she cannot walk or even crawl on the ground due to her injuries, witnessing her walk was very wholesome and heartwarming. She is a hero.
Getting to talk to such a strong girl, who in time of life and death, even after witnessing her parents being shot, was able to perform in such composure, was very admirable. Seeing her recover gave us hope and strength in such dark days.
If our children, 9, 10, 11 year-olds, can act with such bravery, I am confident we are able to get through this inferno. Our nation holds an immense willpower.
I feel that the dispatch teams endured the most challenging elements that day.
Comforting and reassuring people who were facing death, that the IDF is on their way to get them out of there, requires great strength. Dispatchers, wives to soldiers who were drafted to the army to the front line, keeping on working in the dispatch center while having a full grasp towards what they are headed and the severity of the situation. Mothers of children who received dreadful phone calls…
I witnessed dispatchers getting out of the center and breaking down in tears.
The tension and distress, both national and personal, can break a person. Yet the dispatchers performed with great professionalism and composure.
That is the bravery of the dispatchers: Operating and saving lives even in times of chaos.
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