A teen girl recently called 9-1-1 to report an armed robbery at the McDonald’s where worked — and it was her dispatcher mother who answered the call.
Sixteen-year-old Tenia Hill was working overtime at the cash register of a New Orleans McDonald’s at around 8 p.m. when the restaurant was robbed at gunpoint. She and other staff members were forced into the freezer, where she managed to make the call.
On the other end of the line, her mother, Teri Clark, answered.
Clark, who works as an assistant operations manager for the Orleans Parish Communication District, immediately recognized her daughter’s phone number. “I was seeing her number pop up, and in my mind, I’m like, ‘What’s she calling for?’” she told the Washington Post.
When the 24-year veteran dispatcher answered, she remained professional: “New Orleans 9-1-1, what’s the location of the emergency?”
“Mama, can you please send a police officer right now to McDonald’s?” her daughter, a junior in high school, asked.
“Where at?” Clark responded.
“At my job, Mama!”
Although the communication district’s computer system informed Clark of her daughter’s location, she still followed the necessary protocol to confirm the address — a tactic employed to help callers stave off panic.
“I processed the call like I normally do with any other citizen that’s calling,” Clark said, “but I knew it was my child. I was trying to remain calm.”
“Mama, please hurry up, she’s got a gun,” Hill told her mom.
According to Hill, she assumed her mother was already off work and didn’t think she would answer the phone, but was relieved to hear her voice.
“I felt relieved, and I felt calm because of the comfort of my mama’s voice,” she said.
Clark managed to remain outwardly calm as her daughter relayed what had happened. “When my child told me that they was locked up in the freezer, I guess the mama part of me panicked, but the operator in me knew, ‘Hell, I’ve got to get help to my child,’” she said. “I had tears coming down my face, but I still had to do the job.”
The call lasted three minutes and 45 seconds.
After the call, Clark told her shift manager that it was her daughter who called in the robbery and she had to leave.
When she arrived at the McDonald’s, responding officers recognized her and assured her that her daughter was OK and was being interviewed by detectives.
“But I could see my child inside — hysterical, crying hard,” Clark said.
Half an hour later, mother and daughter were reunited.
Tyrell Morris, executive director of the communication district, praised Clark for her handling of the situation.
“Teri Clark is a shining example of what our 9-1-1 heroes in New Orleans and across the nation do every day. We answer each and every call with passion, purpose and professionalism, even when it is our own family,” he told CNN.
However, the emotional of the impact remains fresh for both mother and daughter.
Hill said she has been scared to return to work and has had trouble sleeping following the incident.
“I was really scared because I would never imagined at my first job I would be getting robbed let alone having a gun pointed at me,” she explained. “I was very worried because I didn’t want my mom to have to bury her youngest child. I could have lost my life, but she saved my life. I was very happy.”
“When she cries, I cry,” Clark said. “I’m not doing good, but we’re surviving.”
Police have so far not released details about the case, except that the female suspect stole cash from the safe and fled on foot. Clark said no arrests have been made.