WEST SPRINGFIELD (CBS) – The phone rang and a 911 dispatcher answered.
“West Springfield Police 911 what’s you’re emergency?”
“There are two houses down, people are trapped.”
“I need an ambulance. Our house just got hit.”
“The tornado just moved through here on Union Street. There are two houses down and people are trapped.”
Those were a few of the desperate calls for help that rang into the West Springfield Police Department as the deadly tornados tore through town last Wednesday.
WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports
Houses collapsed and people were trapped under the debris left behind.
The twister hit right at shift change, and at first, only one dispatcher was on duty, scrambling to field calls and to get help on the way.
Chief Tom Burke heard the tornado’s roar and witnessed the early devastation through the people on the other end of the line.
“They were saying trees were falling on houses, houses had collapsed and people were hurt. It was pandemonium in here for a while,” Burke says.
The calls kept coming.
“We need an ambulance… our house just got hit… we need the jaws of life.”
Dispatchers were urging residents if there was a partial collapse to get out of the house.
Mass.Gov: Tornado Recovery
The first 911 call came in at 4:28 that afternoon and the phones rang constantly for the next four hours.
Chief Burke said that’s when calls started coming from people trying to find relatives. One woman called saying her 90-year-old grandmother was stuck in the basement because her home had collapsed.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Rod Fritz reports on the tornado relief efforts
When the phones stopped ringing lives were lost, homes were leveled and futures were destroyed.
“I was at the scene where the woman was killed saving her child, the chief recalls. “It tears your heart out. That could have been any one of us.”