ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) – Their voices are usually the first you hear in the worst of times. That’s before a police officer, a firefighter or a paramedic. 911 dispatchers are the ‘first’ first responders.
“I have taken attempted suicide phone calls. I have taken shooting phone calls,” Anderson County dispatcher Emily Peeples said. “It’s chaotic. It’s heart wrenching. It’s all the emotions that one person can have in one moment, rolled up in that one ring.”
Peeples is a 911 dispatcher. She and her colleagues at the center near the Anderson Regional Airport can easily answer 200 calls during a 12-hour shift.
But Peeples knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the line. Five years ago, it was her.
“[I] had to make that dreaded 911 phone call for the very first time in my life. It was October the 15th, 2016. My son had shot himself.”
It was an unimaginable moment. Peeples said her 20-year old son, Parker, was always happy and always smiling. But she believes he suffered a total mental breakdown. He shot himself in front of his father, with his mother and his daughter in another room.
“I picked up the phone, and I still don’t remember exactly what I said or what I did,” Peeples said. “But I do know that there was an angel on the other side of that line.”
Parker died three days later.
Even at such a tragic time, Peeples remembered something else.
“After that day, I knew in my heart that I wanted to do something to help others, like she did for me,” she said.
After 21 years as a stay at home mom, Peeples joined Anderson County Communications.
“My hope is to be that angel on the other line,” she said. “I want to be the person who gets that person help within a matter of minutes. Like she did for me.”