Fla. governor thanks Orlando 911 dispatch center

The call center serves as the nucleus for the city's emergency response network and taking calls from those who need help


By Arek Sarkissian
The Naples Daily News

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott visited Orlando's 911 call center Thursday night to offer his appreciation.

The timing of Scott's visit put him face to face with the same people who fielded the 911 calls on Sunday morning, when a self-proclaimed jihadist fatally shot 49 people at a gay nightclub.

"Something I learned in my business career is a lot of the people who are working never get a thank you from someone," Scott said. "You should show up and appreciate people, that's when people know you appreciate them."

Scott said he wants to visit as many people as he can who were impacted by what is known as the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. But he will only go where he is welcome, and that means his staff has to sometimes ask for permission. This includes funerals.

Scott's approach was too forward for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who said family members should not feel obligated to invite someone as they grieve. Dyer only attends events where he receives an unsolicited invitation from family.

"I don't know how you can pick and choose what funerals you attend, and I wouldn't want to go to one where I'm not welcome by everybody who is there," Dyer said. "I don't want them to have to tell me, 'no we don't want you there,' and make them feel bad about that."

Scott had already attended two funeral viewings Thursday at the invitation of family. They kicked off the long line of memorial services for some of the 49 people who were killed early Sunday morning during last call at Pulse nightclub. Omar Mateen walked into the club about 2 a.m. and began spraying a crowd of up to 300 people with a high-powered assault rifle similar to the popular AR-15. Mateen was later shot by SWAT team members after they freed hostages by creating a hole in the wall of a club bathroom.

The 29-year-old Mateen told the same Orlando 911 operators Scott visited on Thursday that he slaughtered all of those people in the name of the Islamic state. The call center serves as the nucleus for the city's emergency response network, monitoring communications between fire, police and paramedics, and taking calls from those who need help.

Scott walked to each operator and handed them a shiny metal commemorative coin similar those traded by law enforcement agencies.

"I realize what you've been through. Thank you for what you do," Scott said, handing over one of the medals to a 911 call taker. "Thank you for your help."

Scott also gave coins on Thursday to Orlando police and Orange County sheriff's deputies who were the first to respond to the nightclub shooting.

"I'm trying to show my appreciation in any way I can," he said.

Scott said his presence at the funerals has also allowed him to help. The roommates of a man who Mateen killed were facing eviction because the lease on the apartment they shared was in his name. The roommates approached Scott with their dilemma and he put his office to work.

"That's something that was just going to cost them a lot of money on top of all the grief they were facing," Scott said, adding that of his office staff, "Everyone has a role to take care of these things for people."

Copyright 2016 the Naples Daily News

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