911 operator describes the chaos after Highland Park parade shooting

They are often unsung heroes working in the background when tragedy unfolds. However, they are also key in getting first responders to the scene of a crime – and keeping the public calm amid the chaos.

"Our job as 911 professionals is to be there for the most minor crisis that somebody may be having, up to a major situation like this, the shooting," said Brent Reynolds, Director of Public Safety Support Services for the Village of Glenview.

The Glenview Public Safety Dispatch Center (GPSDC) currently dispatches for 13 communities and has two dispatch centers, one in Glenview (South) and another in Highland Park (North).

FOX 32 Chicago on Thursday spoke with a 911 operator who was on the line as chaos unfolded in Highland Park earlier this week.

"I’ll tell you, it’s the worst day I’ve ever worked in my career, and I hope that none of us ever have to work that again," said Tom Perfect, telecommunicator with the Village of Glenview.


From the time gunfire erupted during Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade Monday morning to late that night – emergency lines never stopped ringing.

"It’s really important for us professionals to help guide the 911 callers through getting them the proper assistance," said Reynolds. "Basically being the eyes and ears of the person needing help."

In the first hour following Monday’s mass shooting, 911 operators took more than 400 calls.

On an average Fourth of July during that same time frame, the 911 Centers would normally receive about 60 calls.

Like many others, Tom Perfect was off for the holiday but rushed in to help.

"I walked into the room, it was chaotic. Found a place to sit, grabbed the phones and just immediately started answering phones for Highland Park — and it was still a very active situation," said Perfect. "People still in the buildings.

People looking for family members. People that didn't know family members were injured or deceased at the time. And it was a lot of calls very quickly."

Throughout Monday, hundreds of calls rose to thousands – ranging from fearful parade-goers who were sheltering in place – to family members who were separated from their loved ones.

As the day went on, calls were also coming in regarding tips about the suspected gunman, Robert Crimo III.

When the gunman opened fire on unsuspecting parade-goers, there were about ten 911 operators staffed. But like Perfect, many others came in to help. By the end of the day, there were about 20 operators working the phones.

Like the public, as 911 telecommunicators start to process this extremely difficult situation, counseling and other support services are being offered them.