Officers heard barking and screaming from the tiny trailer, which was in terrible condition. The windows were dirty, the curtains had turned yellow, and the metal paint was chipped. The cops knocked. “Anyone there?” They screamed. “Police!” It was tough to hear the cries with all the barking. So, officers decided to kick the metal door down. The smell from inside made them nauseous. Then, they found the source of the stench.
The 911 operators in Florida were used to all sorts of calls ranging from people arguing to disorderly conduct. They were also used to people prank calling them. But the emergency service line workers are trained professionals and they knew which questions to ask when the call is real. Where are you? Are you in danger? Are you hurt? But what if the caller couldn’t speak or understand the questions?
Mary was full of energy when she started her shift on Tuesday morning because of the two cups of coffee she drank before sitting at her post. Now that she was wide awake, she put on her headset, turned her computer on, and drank her third cup of coffee. The office was very quiet as the morning and night shift had just swapped. She had no idea what awaited her on this fateful day.
Mary often said the same line tons of times a day over the past three years. “911, what is your emergency?” She waited. It was shortly after 8 a.m., and she wasn’t in the mood for pranksters, who usually preyed on the night shift. “Hello? 911? Hello?” She pushed her headphones deeper into her ears and cranked up the volume. Then, she heard a heartbreaking voice.
“Momma?” a child asked. Mary went on alert. Why did this child call 911? “Can you hear me?” she asked. But all she heard was baby talk that she couldn’t understand. “Is your mommy or daddy there with you?” Mary heard dogs howling and barking on the other end. “Hello? Do you have mommy or daddy with you?” The hair on the back of her neck stood out when the child whispered, “No.”
Mary couldn’t understand the child, and vice versa, which made her worry. “Call mommy or daddy. Tell them someone is on the phone for them, okay?” She heard a rustling sound through her headset. She started to wonder if the child’s mother was injured. Then the child explained, “Ah no, she went out.” Mary kept questioning the child, but the responses were barely audible. How could she help this kid?
“Can you stay on the phone with me and talk to me?” Mary asked as she frantically used her keyboard in order to triangulate the child’s location. But to do this, she had to keep the child on the phone. “Is that your puppy I hear?” The barking was deafening. “What’s your name? What age are you?” Nothing. “Are you still there?” Then the call ended. Fortunately, Mary had the child’s location.
Mary tracked the call to Oak Hill, Florida, and dispatched a couple of deputies to investigate. Once the cops arrived at the trailer park, they discovered more than they expected when they arrived at the tiny trailer home. The shack was extremely dirty. There were two dogs trapped in a cage. But a third one was loose and it looked really aggressive. The cops reached out to animal control before making their way into the home. But where was the child?
The three-year-old girl who made the call was in a corner, and she wasn’t alone. She was with her younger sibling, and both of their diapers were overflowing. They looked hungry too. But when the officers looked in the fridge, all they found was slime and mold. How long were these kids home alone? Where was their mom? How could any parent leave their kids in such horrible conditions? Then they saw something terrifying.
There was a firearm in the center of the coffee table. The toddler grabbed it and began waving it through the air. She also pointed it at the officers and laughed. But once the cops took it from the child, they learned that it was loaded. Who would leave kids alone in a home with something so dangerous? The cops immediately call the Department of Children and Families to scoop the kids up and get them as far away from the deplorable conditions they were in. Now, it was time to locate the mother.
It took two hours and six deputies to find 26-year-old Yajaira Tirado. The mother told the officers that she “had only been gone for five minutes.” She claimed that her kids were sleeping soundly while she met a friend for coffee. But a neighbor claimed Tirado left at 7:30 a.m. on a golf cart. So, Tirado owned up to her mistake. The cops were aware that she never intended to check in on her kids when she didn’t come home for hours. She wouldn’t be off the hook anytime soon.
Cops arrested Tirado and charged her with two counts of child neglect without great bodily harm. She was horrified to find herself in jail. Her bail was set at $5,000, but thanks to a bail bondsman, she was free to go home to her three dogs. However, those who uncovered what she had done wouldn’t forgive or forget that fact that she had put her kids in harm’s way.
Tirado’s 3-year-old daughter and infant child were in state’s custody while they tried to figure out if she’s a fit mother. But given the events that transpired, it’s safe to say that the state is very skeptical. Authorities who were at the scene claimed that the situation was heart-wrenching when they first arrived at the trailer home. But fortunately, the kids were safe and didn’t go to sleep hungry. One person deserves more credits than the cops themselves.
Mary, the 911 operator, kept the toddler on the phone for eight minutes. This allowed her to track the call. She was calm and collected the entire time, and was able to keep the child focused. Tirado may have abandoned her kids, but Mary didn’t. She refused to allow crying and barking to keep her from doing her job. In the end, she saved these kids. But the story has a troubling side to it.
Mary was trained to deal with situations like this one. What happened to Tirado’s kids is more common than people think, and yet, it should never happen. Fortunately, emergency services work around the clock to make sure everyone is safe. And more importantly, they help those who are too young and need a hand. After a troubling distress call, Mary was able to help these kids before tragedy struck. Mary deserves a promotion.