By Chloe Morrison
Walker County 911 dispatcher Theresa Parker disappeared March 21, and since then friends, family, area residents and law enforcement officials have searched for answers.
Rebecca Brown, Mrs. Parker's longtime friend and co-worker, has been focused on keeping her friend's story in the public eye and to raise money to help support domestic violence awareness. 911 reports show there was a history of domestic violence in Mrs. Parker's home.
Mrs. Parker's estranged husband, Sam Parker, is a former LaFayette police officer and a person of interest in the case, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Parker was fired after authorities searched his work locker looking for evidence about Mrs. Parker and found plastic explosives.
Harbin "Ben" Chaffin, another former LaFayette police officer, has been charged with lying to officials regarding the investigation.
Ms. Brown talked to the Chattanooga Times Free Press recently about her efforts and her friend.
Q: How long did you know and work with Theresa?
A: Theresa was my supervisor for four years, and I've known her ... for nine.
Q: What was her role as supervisor?
A: I'm the day-shift supervisor now, and we just supervise everything that's going on in the room and make sure that everybody is doing what they need be doing.
Q: Tell me some of the things you like about Theresa or miss about her.
A: Theresa was, or is, a very kind and patient person. She was always there for you whether you needed her for personal reasons or at work. She is just a very special, special lady.
Q: How have you been dealing (with her disappearance) from day to day? Has it gotten easier as time goes on or is it just always hard?
A: It is always hard. I mean, every time you come to work and you were supposed to see her and she's not here it reminds you. There were a lot of searches in the beginning that I couldn't help with because of having smaller children. So now I am keeping my mind occupied as far as doing the barbecue and the vigils and trying to keep everything going that way. Our mission now is just trying to raise money for domestic violence awareness and hope that her story touches somebody and it helps them get out of the situation they are in.
Q: Does it help you now to have that cause and kind of do something in her name?
A: It does because I don't feel as helpless. I can't do anything as far as the investigation goes. So this is how I can help and keep her name alive.
Q: Everybody has talked about how 911 and emergency services is a family. Is that your opinion, too?
A: When you work with people four days in a row for 12 hours a day, you spend more time with them sometimes than you do your immediate family. So you just become a part. They are just a part of you. They know things that other people don't. You have to be able to tolerate different things.
Q: What is it like to be a 911 operator?
A: It is just something I kind of fell into. You need to be able to multi-task, be able to keep your mind straight, do more than one thing as far as talking on the radio and the telephone. You have to be calm when other people call in so you can calm them down and get the information you need to pass that along.
Q: What is the most difficult part of the job?
A: Just some of the calls that come in. Just the different situations.
Q: Is it something that is fulfilling? Everyone has talked about how Theresa probably helped save so many lives. Is that something that you enjoy?
A: Yes. You can make a difference in somebody's life.
Q: You have two small kids?
A: I've got three in all and a stepson. I've got a 13 (year-old) and a 5 (year-old) and a 2 (year-old), and my stepson is 10.
Q: Do you feel like people (from the community) came together for Theresa?
A: That is something that has really impressed me, like at the last vigil we had a lot of people there who gave. The people who are giving to the fund, it is really giving me faith back in people. When you work at 911 and you see the bad day in and day out, you know if something good is happening, they are not going to call 911. So when you see bad day in and day out, you kind of lose faith in what is going on around you. But then when it comes to something like this, and there has been a lot of support and people who came out and cared. It makes you feel better.
Q: How do you feel about the investigation? Do you feel like the investigation has been going well?
A: Yes, I feel like they are doing the best they can at this point in time. They are getting all the information they can, and, of course, they can't let anything out. This is going to be personal and difficult on everybody because both people are somewhere in the (law enforcement) field. The only person of interest is in the field. The only person that has been arrested and involved in the case is in the field and, of course, Theresa is in the field. Without 911 it would be hard for the officers (or) the fire department to know where to go and what to expect when they get there. If you think about it, the 911 operator is very essential to the process.
Q: What other ideas are out there to continue raising money?
A: I know we were talking about doing a community yard sale. I don't know how that is going to go. That was just something where I was brainstorming one day. We are going to have a motorcycle run in October to raise money for domestic violence awareness and in her name, in honor of Theresa. It is going to be a continuing effort.
Q: The family has talked about wanting closure. Is that how you feel, too? You are going to keep searching until you find something?
A: Exactly. Everybody, whether you knew her or not, you just want closure. You just want to know what happened and why.
E-mail Chloe Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org