‘This time it was us’ — 911 workers reflect on MSU tragedy
Aimee Barajas was 23 when she began working as a dispatcher six years ago at Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch, and she was still studying up on the classroom materials covering policies and procedures when she took a training class on AVI.
“It’s an active violent incident, an active shooter,” she said. “I was brand new. I knew nothing about the job at that point. But, to be honest, that was the training that helped me the most. I will never forget the things I learned in that training, and they stuck with me until the day that it happened.”
The “it” is something the region, the state and the country are tragically all too familiar with now. A 43-year-old gunman walked into two buildings on the campus of Michigan State University on the evening of Feb. 13 and opened fire, killing three students and injuring five others before later taking his own life.
Barajas fielded some of the first frantic calls coming into 911 that night, attempting to ascertain the scope and gravity of what was unfolding while also trying to calm the terrified individuals on the other end of the line and direct emergency responders toward the campus.
“It was just a normal Monday night. I had just come back from break,” Barajas said. “The spot I was sitting was for East Lansing, MSU. During the weekdays, it’s not always as busy. There’s just not a ton of stuff there. … I thought it was a big crash at first. A lot of times when we get a lot of calls at once, it’s because there’s a crash on the highway.
“No. It was someone whose friend had just been shot in the head,” she continued. “While I was on the phone with them, I started hearing other people answering the same types of calls.”
Throughout the evening, 2,200 calls and 215 texts came in to the team of dispatchers — the equivalent of two-and- a-half days of work boiled down to roughly five hours.
A United Front
As director of Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch since July 2021, Barb Davidson knows how well her team can perform.
“We train to it, right? We train to all of the worst stuff. All of the violent incidents,” she said. “We train for the worst, and we hope we’ll never have to use it. Ever. But you fall back on it because that’s what we learn to do.”
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