It was a normal Sunday morning at the Orlando 911 center.
And then the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history happened.
Four dispatchers from the Orlando Police Department and two from the Orlando Fire Department shared their experiences publicly for the first time on Friday.
Dispatchers answered more than 600 calls during the June 12 attack at Pulse nightclub that took the lives of 49 people and injured more than 50.
“When the calls first started coming in, we thought it was a shooting; we work those calls all the time,” police dispatcher Latashia Stephens said. “Then when the calls started coming in a lot quicker and more often. That’s when we realized this wasn’t an ordinary shooting.”
The dispatchers went into crisis mode, gleaning as much information from callers about what was happening so they could relay the information to police officers.
“The first thing I thought was ‘I cannot believe someone would be shooting in a club,’” Stephens said. “We were all kind of like, ‘Whoa, this is real. This is happening in Orlando, right in our backyard.’”
But there was no time to panic — there were people who needed help.