You’re not going to get Newtown 911 dispatcher Bob Nute, one of two people who was on the radio in the town’s public safety nerve center when all hell broke loose the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, to say he did anything out of the ordinary.
“We did our jobs,” Nute said Wednesday afternoon after being honored as the national winner of the 2nd annual Smart Telecommunicator Awards.
“Any other dispatch center would have done the same thing,” said Nute, who was on duty the morning of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shootings along with co-worker Jen Barocsi.
That may be true. But the award announcement said that “on duty during the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, his professionalism and calm demeanor helped emergency responders and his community through the incident.”
The presentation to Nute came after an earlier ceremony in which the Association of Public Safety Officials presented a plaque to honor the entire Newtown dispatch team as Dispatch Center of the Year.
Smart911 Community Marketing Manager Jessica Olson, who presented Nute’s award, said Nute, who took the first call on Dec. 14 “reporting a shooter at Sandy Hook School,” was chosen from 12 finalists out of hundreds of nominations.
Throughout “a day of panic, chaos, terror and sadness ... while those of us around the country could only watch the news reports, praying for the safety and comfort for those affected, Bob worked with his team to answer over 150 calls per hour, coordinating an incredibly complex and dynamic field response by dispatching police, fire and EMS units,” she said.
Her announcement that Nute had won drew loud applause and a standing ovation from several dozen officials and coworkers who packed the council chamber in the town Government Center.
First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra said, “I’m very proud of our dispatch center.”
“I’ve had many opportunities to observe Bob when I stop by the dispatch center ... and he’s calm and kind and clear and focused and careful — all the qualities that one would want in any employee,” Llodra said. “But in that role in particular, Bob is the one that I would want to answer the call. ... He just represents the best in dispatch.”
Nute’s boss, Maureen Will, director of Newtown’s emergency communications center — who nominated him — said after the announcement that “I’m extremely happy that they’re here today to honor Bob.
“I pride myself on having the best of the best,” said Will, who hired Nute, also a 30-year volunteer for the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Co., five years ago.
While Nute is by no means the only valuable member of the Newtown dispatching team, “he’s a true leader in our center” and “he was a true leader that day,” said Will. “It could have been anyone, of my staff, but I’m glad it was him.”
She made a point of telling him after the awards ceremony, “Bob, you’re not getting this award for 12/14. You’re get this award for your actions on the day before, on the day after” and day-in and day-out, she said.
Will said it was difficult for Newtown’s dispatchers to watch the more recent tragedy unfold Monday at the Boston Marathon, where three people were killed and 174 were injured in two bomb blasts near the race’s finish line.
“It’s very hard for us — it’s like ... flashback,” she said.
Nute, flanked Wednesday by his wife of 34 years, Sue, said that despite all the stress of what they went through that day, Dec. 14 “hasn’t changed me. It was a day that we all came in, went to work and did our job, just like we do every day.
“But as a private citizen — who went to Sandy Hook (School) — we all have personal feelings,” he said.
Asked how she feels about her husband winning the award, Sue Nute said, “I feel very proud of him. He’s an amazing man. As he is at work, he is at home. My opinion: he did an amazing job!”
In addition to the Smart Telecommunicator Award, Smart911 will present a donation of $1,000 in Nute’s name to 9-1-1 Cares, a charity of his choice.