The calls they won't forget: Sevier Co. dispatchers remember lives on the line

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SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Nearly one year ago, panicked 911 calls flooded Sevier County dispatchers. Thousands of people who feared for their lives waited for another voice on the other end of the line to help them.

"I don't think words can paint an appropriate picture of what we went through, hearing multiple people scream in your ear, fear and terror," said Amedria Arwood.

Six dispatchers handled thousands of panicked phone calls. Four spoke with Local 8 News about their experiences.

"It's hard to describe it unless you've been there, hard to describe and process," said Tim Fisher. "I cry, yes, that's one thing how people don't understand the nature of the job, a day in the life, usually one terrible worst moment of someone else's life on right after the other," said supervisor Judy Tucker.

Following the wildfires, after 14 lives and thousands of homes and businesses were lost, the voices on the line the night of Nov. 28 heard others raised in criticism of their actions on the job.

"We all know we did exactly what we were supposed to that night, and we did it extremely well, but it has definitely taken a toll," said Tucker. "I actually deactivated all my social media accounts because what people were saying was so horrible," said Arwood.

Though the dispatchers were able to clock out that night, some weren't able to take home a sense of closure. Many said they did not know what came of the calls they answered.

Despite the traumatic experiences dispatchers endured during the fires, they still returned to work—and they continued answering calls.

"It's a dispatcher's nature, I mean if you truly have your heart in the job, everyone does, that's what we are there for, to help our community," a dispatcher said.

While the night of Nov. 28 still haunts many of them, they told Local 8 News their experiences formed an unbreakable bond.

"There was a lot of prayer in the dispatch room, that's what got us through together," said Tucker. "We are family."