Local 911 dispatchers think back on the night of April 9th - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Local 911 dispatchers think back on the night of April 9th


One year after the April 9th tornado, Rochelle dispatcher Cory Beck thinks back to that chaotic night when an EF-4 tornado swept through the area. 

"It was almost like you were doing it with one hand behind your back because we had half the people we normally would."

 911 calls started to flood into Ogle County and Rochelle, but there was one big problem.  The county was in the process of building a new dispatch center, meaning that on the night of the storm, the responsibility of answering hundreds of terrifying calls was left on the backs of only 5 people. 

"You think, "Oh! We're going to move! It's this week, what's going to happen? Oh, a tornado is going to hit,'" says Beck with a laugh. 

Before the storm hit, Beck was on a ride-along with an officer. That's when they saw the tornado touch down. 

"At first we we were just staring at it and I looked over at her and we were just like, 'Yep. That's a tornado.'  and I just grabbed the mic."

Back in the dispatch center, Ogle County dispatcher Brian Symons heard Beck loud and clear. 

"Her voice came over the radio. I don't remember exactly what she said but it was something like tornado on the ground set off the sirens," says Symons.  

Beck raced back to the dispatch center. Over 200 hundred calls flooded the center in the first hour alone.  The dispatch center estimates it handled over 1,000 throughout the night. 

"It escalated very quickly. For the next hour or two we were just answering 911. We Couldn't even get to the non-emergency," Symons said.

Beck agreed with Symons, saying, "Non-stop, it just continuously beeped and beeped.  As soon as you picked one up, you had 10 to 15 calls behind it."

The crew worked like this way until the early morning hours. And then finally their shifts ended on the morning of April 10th. The group took everything they heard that night, and finally began to process it. 

(A group of five dispatchers handled calls for Rochelle and much of Ogle County.)

"I just remember going home and laying down," says Beck. "I was so tired but I couldn't sleep. I finally got to sit there and really process everything. I was awake for hours just like, "did that really happen?"

Symons remembers what it was like walking back to the dispatch center for the first time after the storm. 

"Monday night it was the same four of us that was working. I think I was there first. And once everyone was there I kind of looked around and was like, what's the worst they can do? We've already had a tornado. Tonight can't be any worse." 

Powered by Frankly