BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (WKRN) — They are truly the first, first responders on the scene.

“Sometimes we are the last person that the caller talks to,” explains recently retired dispatcher Laurie Morgan.

For nearly 30 years, she was a calming voice on the other end of the line, if you called 911 dispatch in the city of Brentwood.

“I hope I have made a difference in somebody’s life,” Morgan says, “You can’t just sit anybody in that chair.”

Unfortunately, fewer people are willing to take a seat.

“Who are you going to call, if you don’t have your 911 operators?” Morgan asks rhetorically.

Morgan recalls answering 60-70 calls a day and explains, “That one day was a terrible day for me, where I had three people die in an hour – that’s stressful.”

It wasn’t the stress of the job that pushed her to retire.

“What really bothers me is not being reclassified as a first responder,” Morgan explains.

Without reclassification by the State or Federal Government, 911 dispatchers’ pay, benefits, and retirement are less than other first responders like fire and police.

“I kept pushing forward and thinking maybe that it might pass,” Morgan remembers. “Once I saw that it wasn’t going to go through, I just knew it was my time to go.”

Morgan fears as more colleagues reach retirement age they’ll follow her lead and younger candidates will choose not to take on the immense responsibility without competitive reimbursement. That’s why she still pushes for dispatchers to be recognized and reclassified for the hard work they do daily.

“That would help recruitment and retention,” Morgan suggests. “I think it would help morale and just get good quality candidates.”

She credits her department for keeping her going as her passion for people outweighed the heaviness of her position.

“You have to take that home with you, sort it out, and come back the next day and be prepared to do it all over,” she says.

Several local governments are doing their part to address the needs of 911 dispatchers.

Brentwood built a state-of-the-art facility with natural light to make for a better working environment.

In August of 2021, Metro Council members passed an ordinance adding certain department of emergency communications employees to the fire and police service pension plan.

While it’s a start, Morgan has a message for those still answering calls, “I appreciate each and every one of them. They do a great job. Just hang in there.”