In this episode of Public Safety Now, Nathan Lee, founder of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, shares his late wife’s story and discusses the need for modern 911 technology, improved dispatcher training and financial resources for PSAPs.
JW: Hi, and thanks for tuning into Public Safety Now on HxGN Radio. I’m your host, John Whitehead, Vice President of Sales for U.S. Public Safety here at Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure Division. As we’ve talked over the months about technology, the need for technology within emergency services is critical. It’s necessary to protect our citizens, protect our property. And today’s guest, unfortunately, has experienced some of the reasons why. Our guest today is Nathan Lee. He’s the Founder and CEO of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, and he’s committed to telling his story just to help better the 911 system to give tools to talk about the necessary training for those of us behind the mic. Our discussion today, we’re going to go back in time a few years. It’s going to begin on January 17 of 2008. And as you’ll soon hear, it’s really a date that changed the Lee family’s lives forever. Nathan, welcome, and thank you very much for joining us.
NL: Thank you, John. It’s great to be here. Thank you for Hexagon for having me. And, you know, excited to talk to you today.
JW: Yeah, and we’re so happy to have you on here, and just, what you guys have been through, I’m just, thank you very much for joining us, is what I could say. So, listen, I started it off talking about the date, but to be fair, Nathan, no one better than you could tell this story. So, I’m going to ask you to share, if you will, a little bit of how you got here and what happened on that day.
NL: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, Denise and I were two newlyweds. We were married just the date that she died on January 17, 2008. We had been married a year and a half. And we lived in southwest Florida, in the town of Northport, which is about halfway between Tampa and Fort Myers on Florida’s West coast. And it just started off like any other day. I went to work for Florida Power and Light, which is a power company here in Florida, and I had the awesome job of reading metres, where I got to walk through people’s yards and avoid all their vicious dogs. But I came home from work and found my two boys, Noah and Adam. Noah was two, and Adam was six months at the time. They were really little. I came home and found them home alone. All of Denise’s belongings were still there. Her phone, her purse, her keys were all still in the house. Everything looked normal. The only thing that wasn’t normal was she was not there. And after trying to locate her around the house for a few minutes, I started to panic. I started—something wasn’t right. And I immediately called 911, and that started a manhunt for the person that ended up taking Denise, kidnapped her, ultimately raped her and murdered her. But it started one of the largest manhunts in Southwest Florida history. And there were some 911 calls that were made. And unfortunately, it was a few of them that weren’t handled very well. And so, you know, just to kind of break that down, I can do it real briefly. But after we found out that Denise was kidnapped, she was able to make a 911 call herself, about three hours after I arrived home. She was able to finally tell us what had happened because she got a hold of the kidnapper’s phone in the back of his green Camaro. Dialed 911. But technology being what it was back in 2008, it was a track phone. And those that understand the technology, it was a phase one call that came in, and they were only able to get a tower location. And she was able to least tell them she wasn’t able to see anything. She couldn’t tell them where she was at. And even if she could see, Denise wasn’t—she was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but when it came to geography, that wasn’t her forte. Which, I mean, a lot of people feel the same way, especially in the world of G.P.S. and Google Maps and all that stuff these days. But she was able to call and basically say she didn’t know who had taken her. She confirms she was kidnapped at that point. And then just 15 minutes later, after her call disconnected, a woman by the name of Jane Kowalski saw her screaming in the back of a car, saw her banging on the window. She did not know anything about the disappearance. It hadn’t been made public yet. And she was able to call 911 once she realised something wasn’t right, and it went to her dad’s agency. Denise’s dad was and is a police officer. And his agency took the call, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, and unfortunately, it wasn’t ever dispatched. So, the call taker who took the call did not like using CAD. She was a 15-year-veteran at that point. She was a note taker. She was not wanting to—she wouldn’t ever really type into the CAD in real time. She’d wait until after the call ended, after she took a bunch of notes on a piece of paper. Then she would go back in and type everything in afterwards. And they kind of let her get away with that. Well, on this night, because of the chaos, because it involved this search involved one of their own’s daughters, pretty much every law enforcement officer in that agency was either working a normal shift or was helping to try to find Denise. There was multiple agencies involved at this point. You had Florida Wildlife, you had Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Sarasota County Sheriff, North Port Police, Charlotte County Sheriff, Florida Highway Patrol, Lee County Sheriffs Off—I mean, it was insane, the size of this search. But because of the dispatchers that were in the centre that night were so fed up with having this call taker never do her job the right way, the call taker took this call, stood up, and started shouting all the information, saying, “I think I have Denise,” and giving play by play. But the dispatchers told her, “Put in a call, and then we’ll dispatch it.” So, they basically picked that moment to kind of teach her a lesson, at that moment. And this all came out in the civil case during depositions and court testimony. And so, you know, that’s why ultimately the call wasn’t dispatched, so Michael King was able to evade that woman and eventually was able to turn and get out of her sights. And then he drove another six miles down the road, and that’s where he ended up murdering Denise. So that was the last chance that Denise had. It was amazing that that citizen—her name is Jane Kowalski—she did what every, we would hope, every citizen would do. She saw something, and it wasn’t right. She dialed 911. But just because of personality differences and egos, if you will, it wasn’t dispatched. So, ultimately that led—this, this hit the media. It was a huge story after—they found Denise a couple of days later. We had the funeral, and then we started learning of some of these mistakes. And then over the next few months, it just really was a whirlwind. But the foundation—I decided to start a foundation to try to help turn her negative, her legacy, into a positive instead of just being the girl that was murdered in Florida, which is how every article would start. And then that kind of wound us to where we are today. And it’s pretty, pretty amazing to just see that Denise has been able to make such an impact on the industry, and her legacy is something positive, and she deserves all the credit. She made the ultimate sacrifice to do whatever she could to come home that day. But I know the mistakes that were made are lessons learnt now, and 911 centres, hopefully, are doing everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
JW: That’s a heart-wrenching story. And there’s so many areas in there that it sounds like the Foundation can focus on. In the midst of a tragedy, it sounds like you guys have kind of picked up and started focusing on the areas where a foundation like this one can really make a difference and help us in the emergency service community do better as we move forward, is what it sounds like.
NL: Right. Yeah. So, you know, there were so many lessons. I mean, I know from technology being advanced more, as far as cell phone location, and if they were able to locate her phone while she was dialing 911, it would have been amazing because we wouldn’t be here, you know? You talk about training, you talk about elevating the level of 911 up to where they really should be. You know, 911 is just constantly thrown under the bus or buried into the ground or pounded into the ground with things. And I really, as I started travelling the country, telling this story, and I started meeting folks in this industry, it was amazing. It was amazing to see how much they welcomed us as a family with open arms. I was getting letters and emails and messages on social media. Back then, it was MySpace. I mean, that’s how long ago this was. But messages on social media just apologising. Dispatchers all over the country just wanting to say they were sorry. And it was just overwhelming to see how compassionate and dedicated the people were in 911. And then I started seeing how a lot of times the tools that they have are sometimes very limited, and they’re expected to do such a difficult job at such a high level with limited tools in their toolbox. So, it kind of evolved over the years of just turning—I just wanted to do anything I could to remind them why they do this, and that’s kind of, you know, the evolution of the Foundation over the years.
JW: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because in emergency services, if you sit in your home and you watch television—and this is going back years—you’ll watch different, the CSIs of the world and the Law and Orders of the world. The technology that Hollywood portrays emergency services having isn’t even reality. In some of the areas that I’m thinking back and remembering here, Nathan, is person tracking and car tracking. I always used to like, you know, whatever—and I was working at 911 late ‘90s, early 2000s. So, this was even earlier than what your story is. And I’d turn on one of our favourite shows, and all of a sudden, they would be like, “Someone’s in the back of a car. Let’s track that vehicle.” And then all of a sudden, they’d show this map, and there’d be this little dot, and they’d be able to follow that. It’s like, “Oh, man, I don’t have that at my centre.” And then as I got into the technology a little more and I got into the vendor space, I’m like, “Well, that’s because it doesn’t exist.” So, it’s amazing how technology has progressed forward. But I think you’re right in some of those things. It’s the educating, it’s the understanding and realising that technology can always do better, and there’s always things that we could have. You mentioned, during this time, that they were still in a phase one situation. Okay, so they knew the cell phone number, but they couldn’t even tell you what tower or trying to triangulate the location of that. It becomes very interesting. And I think the public has an expectation of, this is where you need to be. And what I love about foundations like what you guys are doing is it’s not going out there, it doesn’t feel like it’s pointing fingers and pointing blame and saying, “You guys are doing this wrong.” It really is out there, talking to them and educating agencies and the community on how they should be thinking and how they should be forwardly progressing in their minds, budgets, and then in reality.
NL: Yeah. And the public education—my favourite thing of watching all those shows was how teleportation apparently was invented, because they would magically just arrive minutes later, like two hours away. But that’s what dispatchers—we talk about this in our training classes that we do around the country is you always got to remember that the public doesn’t know how this job works. You know, they don’t understand what it’s like to be in a dispatch centre. They don’t understand how the technology actually works. But on the 911 line is not the time to educate them. So, we get into a lot of those things. But I think, especially when it comes down to when people dial 911, the most important thing is location. There is no debating that. And you can’t send help if you don’t know where they are. And so that’s the one of the biggest things that I’ve tried to help push over the years is just, man, we’ve got to find a way—Google and Domino’s Pizza and Uber all know where we are, but 911 doesn’t. And that’s a major issue. And luckily, over the last 18, 24 months, there’s been some huge strides there. And that’s what the public needs to keep hearing about is, okay, finally, this is what you need to know when you call 911. They don’t know instantly where you are. You know, it’s not like government big brother, watching every little thing you do. But yeah, it’s very, very important and frustrating, you know.
JW: Yeah. I’ve heard stories over the years very similar, right? There was a child abduction over on the West Coast. And this came down, and this was back in the ‘90s, late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and officers actually pulled the vehicle over. And it was as simple as they didn’t have connections with technology providing more “be on the lookout” type of information to where they’re talking to this person, and they’re sitting on the side of the road, and they run the plate, and everything comes back normal. So, they go on about their day. And then come to find out, unfortunately, the little girl was just like 15, 20 yards up into the woods, right where that person was with their vehicle. You know, would it have made a difference in the end? I don’t know. And I won’t be even the first to be able to judge that. But to your point, I wrote down a few areas here, as you were talking. Training is the first one that I put in. And, you know, I started off with, well, clearly we need to train our dispatch staff and our emergency responders. And that has to be first and foremost. But as we’ve been talking, my mind keeps going to, this is an overall training of the big picture. It’s everything from the citizens out there to where they know what to expect and how to correctly dial in, all the way down to the call taker to the dispatcher, to the responder, giving them that overall training is so important to make sure that all of those steps are handled in an appropriate situation.
NL: Yeah, agreed. And if you look at training standards for 911, as of right now in 2020, I believe the numbers—22 states that still do not mandate 911 training. And that’s alarming and disappointing and unacceptable, you know, where you have this huge push right now, you’re starting to see 911 dispatchers or telecommunicators or emergency communications officers, whatever you want to title them, they’re finally being recognised as public-safety personnel in states all over the country. There’s a federal push for that, but they’re still not being minimally trained. You know, it’s based on each agency, individual agency, and what they want to do. And most agencies out there, as you know, train way above any minimum that a state would mandate. But there are many of them that do not. And the education piece for the public, also the training piece for 911, but I think just as a whole, law enforcement, fire, E.M.S., just all of that in that realm in public safety, recognising how important 911 is, is a big challenge. You know, and getting your sheriffs and chiefs to recognise—most do, but some don’t—that they just, “Oh, they’re just dispatchers.” And that’s not okay either. And that’s one of the things that I try—we get a lot of police officers in our training classes and, you know, just trying to remind them, 911 is the first link in the chain. If that link doesn’t work, nothing else does. And, you know, it seems like the culture is starting to change a little bit, but there’s still a long way to go.
JW: Yeah, we’ve been focusing, to your point, on let’s get dispatchers out of this administrative secretary field and into an emergency responder type of category. And, you know, I always go back to that silly saying, heavy is the crown, but it is that. Okay, now we’re seeing some of these states move forward and recognise the dispatchers as a key link in this emergency services chain. I’m in complete agreement with that. But to your point, and this could be controversial to some, and I mean no disrespect, but okay, fine. If we get that, then we’ve got to meet that standard. And just like our field officers, our firefighters, our medics, that level of training and CEUs, or continuing education models, all of that has got to be put into place. It’s got to be set up to where not only do we deserve that title, but then we can also just continue proving how important that title is, to be able to say we are the first link in that chain. So, yeah, I couldn’t agree more with you. So, you brought up a couple areas here. You even said things have improved. What kind of improvements have you seen? I mean, this has been 12 years now since this has happened. You know, and you’ve continually worked in the 911 and the public-safety industry, I think, six months after you guys started this foundation. So, you’ve got now almost a dozen years into this. How have things improved?
NL: Yeah, well, yeah, you know, it is a different industry than it was back in 2008. There’s been a lot of changes that I’ve seen. And, you know, but first off, I’ll just say for everybody listening, I am not going to pretend ever to be a technology expert when it comes to 911. That’s not my cup of tea. But I have seen a lot of things, from the standpoint of texting 911. I mean, that’s been a huge improvement. You know, now we’ve got Rapid SOS, who’s come into the picture of now providing actual accurate dispatchable locations now with partnering with Apple and Google. That’s been huge. I mean, I know I hear stories all over the country now where we’re finally past the phase two of, okay, we’re getting a triangulation of an estimated location. It’s supposed to be within 50 to 300 metres. And we’re also hopefully getting G.P.S., which is helping that. Well, if we’re calling from a basement in a metal building, we’re not going to get any signal. And so G.P.S. and triangulation are useless. But you know what, that building might have Wi-Fi. And that’s where Rapid SOS now has kind of helped solve or is beginning to solve that challenge where if, hey, if that phone, if it’s an iPhone or an Android phone is connecting to Wi-Fi, it’s going to still send a Wi-Fi location to that 911 centre. And partnering with companies like Hexagon and all these other CAD vendors, and now you have phone vendors now that are partnering, mapping vendors, that’s been a huge improvement. And that would have made a big difference in Denise’s case. If Rapid SOS technology was available back in 2008—and it might have been. It’s just it probably was totally unrealistic for a publicly funded entity like 911 to be able to keep up and pay for something like that or advance it—but it would have saved Denise’s life. They would have known where she was. It would have, at least, given her a better chance. So, you know, I think from a technology standpoint, I know the CAD systems and radio systems have all continued to improve, but I still feel like the biggest challenge that 911 is facing other than staffing, which is always going to be a problem, is just getting it to the same level everywhere and kind of getting more uniformity and getting dispatchers, giving them the tools necessary. When I say tools, I really focus more on training, on quality assurance, on making sure that all these policy procedures are being followed. I mean, there’s agencies across the country that don’t even have policy procedures. And that’s tough. You can have all the technology in the world, but if you don’t have a dispatcher trained at a high level, it’s useless. So that’s my big push.
JW: Yeah. And I got to tell you, I think that those of us that have—and we’ve had numerous conversations about this with several guests, even here on HxGN Radio, and I think that we would all agree exactly with what you’re saying. It’s one thing, you know, I always kind of jokingly say, “I can go buy an iPhone 11, and I can put all the cool apps on it, and then I could give it to my grandmother, who, God love her, is 91 years old, and it’s just a phone, meaning that she’s not going to have the training and the ability to use that thing to the fullest, so it’s just a phone. And one of the areas that I think, from all parts of emergency services is, and we say it all the time, is change management. It says that as new technology comes in, whether that’s radios, CAD systems, maybe it’s add-ons like the Rapid SOS type of thing, and it’s those types of features and functionality that come in. One of the areas isn’t just to put the technology in, because that’s in and of itself, an expense and normally a lot of work. But then you’ve got to train them on it then. And okay, that, again, that can be a nice little lift to get people understanding the technology. But don’t underestimate the change-management role. The story that you told earlier, that dispatcher had the tool, at least to put some of the information in, but was going old school, and was writing it down on a paper. And you know what, 99.9% of the time, it probably worked for her. Unfortunately, it’s this one time that it didn’t. And to me, that comes down to the change-management role. It says, not only did I give you the tools and I give you the training, but now I’m going to give you the why, and then don’t be afraid to try this because it’s new. Don’t be so stuck on yesterday. And giving that change-management atmosphere really kind of, I’ve seen, help all emergency services, whether it’s dispatch, police, or fire, really kind of incorporate some of this new technology, new tools into their arsenal.
NL: Yeah, agree. This job is not easy. You know, it’s got to be one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. And I’ve never done it. I never will be able to do it, even with everything that I know about it at this point. You know, dispatchers make it look so easy. You know, I go into training environments. I’ll see somebody doing a simulated call. We’re all just sitting in a comm centre and watch them do their magic. And I’m like, I can do that. And somebody’ll be like, “Okay, let’s go in the training room. Let’s give it a shot,” and they’ll play a test call, and I’ll sit down. I can’t do it, let alone handling the stress and the lack of closure and just all the different things, the multitasking. It’s not an easy job, and not everybody can do it. And so, Denise’s case, there was a lot of different things. It wasn’t just a training issue. This was an accountability issue. This was a quality-assurance issue. This was a management-supervisor issue. Like where was management? Where was management holding that dispatcher to the level of expectation? What were her expectations? Well, apparently they weren’t to enter calls in the CAD, which they had, which I’m sure they spent a lot of money on. They let her just continue to write things down, and that’s okay. Some have this mindset of, okay, well, they show up on time, they’re a good employee, and they’re a very nice person, so we’ll just let them do that because it’s just what’s her name. You know, it’s just Bob, or it’s just Sally. And that mindset has to change. And it’s not okay.
JW: I think it’s holding each other to the higher standard. I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. And again, we stay away from the politics on this conversation and play hard doing that. But as everyone knows, no matter what news channel that you prefer to watch, everybody knows that right now there is a microscope focusing in on public safety, and everything that we do, from beginning to end, whether it’s that first call, down to the report, down to where we take that person afterwards, everything is now being scrutinised. So, it’s up to us to come up to a standard and maintain that standard that is, you know, may not be acceptable to everyone but at least hits that, to your point, the policy and procedures that are set forth by that agency and puts those into practise.
NL: Yeah, I guess where my point where I was going with that is if somebody gets to a point they can’t do this job anymore, it’s too important to try to just, you know, go through the motions. Find someone else. I encourage the dispatchers—I bring this up in every class we do when we talk about Denise’s story, and I want to know if they still like, you know, and a lot of them will say no. They’re counting the days to retirement. And those are the ones I want in our class because I want to try to resurrect them. I want to try to remind them of, you know, reignite the flame and remind them how important they are, because if they can do the job, it’s hard enough to find people that can do the job. But these people can, but they’re getting burnt out. And I challenge 911 centres all over, I challenge leadership all over to really find out why are your dispatchers getting burnt out? You know, it’s not always because of the calls they’re taking. It’s a lot of other things that get thrown into the fray and, you know, and so it’s just being able to really finally give, let’s just start paying attention to these issues in 911. I want these leaders and policymakers to start letting, you know, let’s start hearing their voices for a few minutes, and let’s give them what they need. We’re now elevating them to public safety. Fantastic. Let’s keep doing that. But let’s go a step further. Let’s find out why we have a staffing issue. Let’s go out, and why are people leaving our centre? Why are people leaving this industry? There was a study by APCO ProCHRT a few years ago that mentioned that 97 percent of public-safety personnel or public-safety communications personnel are not going to reach retirement. And that’s horrifying. That’s devastating, you know? You start training, you start making sure things are being done, put the technology in front of them. We start, man—it really makes a huge difference. And ultimately, the most important thing is that people come home. When somebody calls 911, they get the help that they deserve. And unfortunately, Denise, that night didn’t. But hopefully, her not getting that has been able to lead to other people getting it. And I’m confident of that.
JW: So what kind of response have you been getting? So, you just talked about, Nathan, when you’re standing in front of a group of 911 professionals, and you may have some of those dispatchers who are in there, they’ve hit their—they’re burnt out. They just feel like, you know, they’re unappreciated or why bother? And you’re seeing that type of response. As you’re telling your story and as you guys are having these open conversations across the U.S., what type of response are you getting from the dispatchers?
NL: Well, I’ll tell you. The majority of the people that I get a chance to meet are 100 percent compassionate, still love their job, and are upbeat and motivated. But I do occasionally run into folks that aren’t. And most of the time, it’s amazing. And it’s actually probably the most gratifying thing. When this happens, it reminds me that Denise didn’t die in vain. And I get people that come up to me all the time and say, “Listen, I’m not going to be those dispatchers. I’m going to change my ways. I’m going to do better. You make me want to be—Denise makes me want to be a better dispatcher.” And that’s the best thing that I can hear. And I will say this. Even if the dispatchers are burnt out, very rarely do I ever encounter anyone that’s not nice, for the most part. I leave everywhere, after I teach, all over the country, I’ve been to 48 states. So, if you know anybody in Hawaii, let me know. That’s one of the two. But I just never leave, going, “Man, what a bunch of jerks.” I never leave saying that. I just leave, going, “Man, they’re such nice, passionate, amazing people. They’ve dedicated their career, their lives to helping people.” I hate to see it because they just keep getting punched around by callers, by field units, by maybe management, by just coworkers. I mean, I just hate that. But overall, the response is amazing. That’s what really just endeared me to this industry after it happened. And I could have easily went around bashing 911. But man, that never—one, that’s not what Denise would have wanted me to do. But two, just the letters and the hugs and the “I’m sorrys” and the just “We want to do better. We’re going to play Denise’s story in front of all of our trainees. And we want to make sure all of our dispatchers go through your class.” And that’s the stuff that never gets old.
JW: Yeah, that is great to hear, Nathan, because I think that you’re right. No one’s going to care more than a 911 dispatcher, and I mean that because they know that they’re the first link. They know that they’re the ones that’s picking up that phone and that you’re calling them, not to say hello, not to complain about your tax bill, not to complain about something. You’re calling them because you’re having the worst day possible, no matter what the situation is. And that’s the life that these guys in the profession that has been chosen and is taken very seriously here. And I’m glad to hear that—it kind of reaffirms exactly where my head was, is that, you know, 911 dispatch community is a great group of people that are passionate, that give their all to this, but I think that the points that we’ve talked about today are points that we can’t take lightly. We’ve got to remember exactly, the Denises of the world and what we do matters whenever those minutes are ticking away. So, tell me about the Foundation. Where do you guys see the future of the Foundation going? Where do you see this thing building to?
NL: Man, it’s amazing. We’re actually just hit the 12-year anniversary of the beginning of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. We found that on old P&L, profit and loss, that we did early on. Being a nonprofit, obviously every business needs to keep numbers and bookkeeping, but being a nonprofit, we keep all our records with that stuff, even going back to the beginning. And I found a P&L that showed we made a profit in 2010, I believe, of $36. And I think we brought in, like, maybe, we did, I think, $17,000 in training that year. And this past year we were almost to a half a million in training revenue. And all of that goes back into 911. I mean, we’re a nonprofit. We’re not making a profit. We’re putting it back in the industry. And we have four full-time employees. We’re doing training. We have a large team of instructors that travel around, teaching 911 dispatchers. We do quality-assurance consulting for agencies. We help agencies build QA programmes or improve their existing quality-assurance programmes. We do third-party QA for agencies because a lot of times when an agency is not doing quality assurance it’s because they don’t have the staff to do it. And so, we’re trying to help bridge that gap. Denise’s story and our Foundation has been part of a lot of national initiatives like the APCO/NENA quality-assurance standard, the national minimum training guideline that came out a few years ago through the national 911 office. And it’s, you know, I just want to, I guess I see the Foundation, I just want us to continue to be that reminder, you know, and I hope we continue to grow, and I hope we can continue to just help focus on the dispatchers themselves. I want us to be that advocate for them. I want us to continue to, whatever they need, we want to help give it to them. And I just, I want to see Denise continue to make a difference.
I mean, I’m real excited. I mean, the boys are 14 and 13 now, and they’re getting to that age where they—they’re doing amazing. Those of you that have followed this story, and they’re great. I mean, they’re fantastic boys. It’s amazing how resilient kids are. But it’s getting close to me having to tell them really what happened. They know a lot of what happened. But it’s going to be a tough day. But at least I’m going to be able to counter that with, okay, but look what we did about it. Look what’s happened since then. That’s the lesson that I would hope they would learn from me, if anything, is just listen, no matter what happens, you have control of your reaction. So, I guess I don’t know where I see us. I want us to just continue to make a difference and continue to help any way we can.
JW: It’s awesome, Nathan, the story that you’re going to be able to tell your kids, because, as you said, you’re going to have to give them the reality of what happened originally. But then what their dad did and how you—I think you said it earlier. You could have just curled up, got all upset, and then just spent the next 10 years just being upset with the system and using every opportunity to just bad mouth and just continue that, what I’ll call, negativity. And I got to commend you. You didn’t, and I mean within months, you guys turn this around, and the focus was, let’s make it better. And the story that you’re going to be able to tell your kids is just amazing to me. And I think that Noah and Adam are definitely going to be proud as they realise exactly what you guys have done over these last 12 years. And I thank you and commend you for that because, well, I know that had to be a tough thing to be able to just move past that and focus on what good can come out of it. That had to be tough.
NL: Thanks, John. And I’ll tell you, 911, the industry, the community itself deserves a lot of credit because if it wasn’t for them letting me do this, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. I wouldn’t have gotten to a new normal. I wouldn’t have—I just, a year and a half ago, I got remarried. I’ve been able to find love for the second time in my life. Some people never find it for the first time. I’m super blessed. I’ve met thousands of the most amazing people on the planet. I would say, 98 percent of the people that I talk to every day are all dispatchers. And I’m very thankful to the industry for letting me let Denise make a difference.
And I know that was tough early on. I know it was tough to have a black eye, because Denise’s case was a black eye. But, you know, even here locally, in our area in southwest Florida, the agencies that made the big mistakes have all made huge strides. I mean, the agency that didn’t dispatch the call I know has come a long way. I still live in that county. So, I’m just really thankful to them for whatever they had to do to make sure this didn’t happen again. And, a lot of the credit goes to the industry, is basically what I’m saying. I just can’t thank them enough for letting me do this, and I can’t thank them enough for what they do.
JW: Yeah, no. That’s a great ending to the story, for sure. Well, I’m sorry, a great continuation to the story, not an ending, because you guys are hitting your stride and running quickly. So that is great. How can our listeners help support your organisation? Is there anything that you want to kind of put out there, if anyone’s listening and wants to support?
NL: Well, yeah, we’re on all the social-media platforms. You can visit on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. We have a website, deniseamberlee.org. They can join our newsletter by texting DALF to the number 66866. Again, that’s 66866, and they just put DALF in the text message, and they’ll instantly join our newsletter, which will keep them up to date on all the things that we have coming up, training courses, which, as of now, are all been in the virtual variety. We’ve done a few courses in-person here in the last couple weeks, but for the foreseeable future, they’ll be virtual. So, if agencies are still looking to get training hours and need training, they can reach out to us through our website. And I just have to give a shout out to all of our corporate partners for all the support that they give us. We’re really thankful. Being a nonprofit, we’d need every little, every penny we can get. And the last thing I’ll say, one of my favourite things is people can donate through Amazon. Amazon has a really cool philanthropic arm called Amazon Smile. Instead of just going to amazon.com, they go to amazonsmile.com, it’s the same website; it just triggers Amazon to have you select a nonprofit that Amazon then every time you make a purchase, donates to that nonprofit. So, you can select the Denise Amber Lee Foundation in that. Or if you don’t choose us, at least pick another nonprofit. Jeff Bezos and Amazon can afford to give a little bit of money away. But yeah. And one thing they can do, the last thing I’ll say, John, is just continue to be the best you can every single day. Go to work. All the dispatchers listening, just never forget why you do this job, and remember what a critical role you play. You’re the frontlines of our homeland security, basically. I mean, you guys are the trenches, and you’re the first link. So just please don’t ever forget why you do it, and I can’t thank you enough for the sacrifices you make every day. So, thank you to all the dispatchers out there.
JW: Well, Nathan, I couldn’t say it any better myself, so I’m not even going to try. I just want to thank you for all the work that you have put in over the last 12 years. Again, my heartfelt condolences on behalf of Hexagon for what you had to endure. I’m glad to hear that your two boys are doing great. And congratulations on the new marriage here in the last couple of years that you’ve got to experience here. But again, thank you very much. And for those of you, if you didn’t write that down, Amazon Smile, go on the Amazon site. I know that you’re already ordering items. You can select the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. And Jeff will send a couple bucks their way. And for updates, I think that number was text the number 66866, and in that, put DALF, and you’ll get updates from Denise Amber Lee Foundation. But Nathan, once again, thank you very much. To hear additional episodes or learn more, visit hxgnspotlight.com. And thanks for tuning in.