Unsung heroes: 911 dispatchers open up about Marshall County HS shooting

MARSHALL COUNTY, KY — Together, Maranda Hanson and Tonya Clevidence have more than 30 years of experience working as 911 dispatchers. But nothing could have prepared them for what they heard on that cold Tuesday morning after a student opened fire at Marshall County High School.

“It truly was just terrifying in every aspect, and your heart breaks for everybody,” says Hanson.

It was a feeling of helplessness as they answered hundreds of calls coming in to the Marshall County dispatch center.

“I mean, every line we had was ringing,” says Hanson. “It was constant. Just get the information the best that we can and get the next call. I mean, the hardest part for me is having to disconnect from kids who were scared. It was really hard when I had kids begging me to stay on the phone with them, and I couldn’t because my thought was ‘Maybe the next caller knows where he (the shooter) is.'”

On top of taking calls, reporting injuries, and notifying hospitals, Clevidence says it’s their job to relay crucial information to police, such as the gunman’s location.

In all, it only lasted 12 minutes. But for Hanson and Clevidence, it felt more like 12 hours.

“It was like we were right there with them,” says Clevidence.

“I had to make myself go back to work the next day, because I was scared that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t go back,” says Hanson.

Hanson’s daughter is a junior at Marshall County High School and was home sick the day prior. Hanson went into work early the next morning, on the day of the shooting, and she didn’t know if her daughter was back at school or not.

“The first 10 calls were a blur, because I didn’t know if the next one was going to be her,” says Hanson. “Finally, my husband got a hold of me and said ‘She’s at home, and she’s safe.'”

Now, the two women are finding strength in each other, their families and the community.

“You’re at where God puts you,” says Clevidence. “You’re placed there. You know it.”

Families and students can find help through The Rebels Project. It’s a support group for survivors of mass trauma, such as a school shooting. Students from Columbine started the group back in 2012 after the Aurora Theatre shooting. The group is based in Colorado, but it has a huge online presence as a place where survivors can share their stories.