On August 31, 2019 the unthinkable happened, and for many Odessans their first instinct was to call 911 to report the incident they saw.
“And as soon as I walked in I heard the phones just ringing and ringing and ringing. I just jumped on the phone and I started answering.”
Michele Racca is the Director of Public Safety Communications for the Odessa Police Department. She says that it was an environment like she had never seen before. “You know I want to say that it was controlled chaos.”
Her team had 5 dispatchers in the room on that Saturday. Before she knew it, she was calling everyone on her team to come in and help. Before she knew it there were 14 other dispatchers in the room with her, answering calls.
“What was different about the situation on that day was that most active shooters, it’s at a confined building, a confined space. This was all over. So we had several different crime scenes over one incident.”
She continued to fill in as dispatchers went to check on their loved ones. She gave everyone the option to return to work after making sure their family was safe.
“My main focus was making sure my employees were okay, as much as they could be;”
she remembers how she felt in that moment.
“You know, wanting to just cry… along with the ones we know that lost loved ones or that were injured, and just an outcry for our community. You know but you kind of have to set those aside and do the task set before us.”
That task led her and the rest of the OPD dispatchers to be the Telecommunicator team of the year for the state of Texas. Additionally, the calls and radio transmissions from that day will be used to train other dispatchers across Texas in how to deal with mass shooting situations.
“I mean it’s very humbling but I’m honored that they are recognizing us for that.”