911 operators are the first people to get contacted when a tragedy or crime takes place. That means they hear some shocking stuff. They have an incredibly important job because without them it would be almost impossible for emergency services to get to the scene of crimes. However, the job also comes with some pretty grim stories.
These Reddit stories are from 911 operators who shared the call they will never forget. Content has been edited for clarity.
"A woman called, I answered and she was crying HARD. She was still coherent though, knowing she needed to relay information to me as quickly as possible. She gave me the address and then I asked what the problem was there.
'It's my son, he has fallen in the bathroom and is laying against the door so I cannot open it more than a few inches.', she said.
I asked, 'Is he able to talk to you?'
She broke into great sobs and then sucked them back down to answer my question. 'No he isn't saying anything, I can see in there he has a needle in his arm. I think he overdosed, this has happened before but I can't get in! He is laying against the door.'
So, for the next five minutes, I listened to this mother crying and struggling not to while she answered a few of my follow up questions. After that, I encouraged her to talk to her son and let him know help was on the way just to give her something to do to feel useful, and also it was possible he could still hear. I talked with her until EMS arrived.
He was a 22-year-old addict, and my heart broke during this call listening to this mother's sorrow that came from so deep inside of her. Luckily the EMTs hit him with 3 doses of Narcan and he lived.
Yet I still carry those 10 minutes of my life with me to this day."
"This was probably the scariest call I ever had.
This woman had called and a different operator had taken the initial call, but the response was slow because we were busy, so I had to call her to let her know. Initially, she said she'd picked up two 12-year old boys walking near a golf course to give them a ride, but they were refusing to leave her house. It wasn't a huge priority, as no one was violent and there weren't any missing 12-year-olds. When I called her back, she re-explained the part about picking them up and how they were sitting in her kitchen refusing to leave. I made sure everything was okay, but she went quiet for a few moments and then whispered, 'I, uh, I don't know if they're real. They aren't drinking anything and I may be hallucinating.' And from there, as I asked questions and changed priorities of the call to get a faster dispatch, she oscillated quickly between talking about them as if they were actually there, to telling me how they weren't and how she was positive she was imagining it. The idea that our grasp of reality can be that tenuous terrifies me.
They were not real. She hallucinated about 2 - 3 hours of interaction with the 'kids'. What I always questioned later was whether or not she actually stopped and let two hallucinations into her car, or just imagined it later. I'll never know though."
"A call came in from a group of kids. The oldest being a sixteen-year-old girl, as well as her 15-year-old boyfriend and the boyfriend's siblings. They were complaining about someone outside the house, prowling. The police were sent to the house, but it was a long drive for the closest officer. The girl screamed into the phone that the man had broken in and was trying to get into the room. There was some yelling in the background before the boyfriend said, 'forget it' out loud.
The door crashed and there was some screaming and then a loud bang. The boyfriend had shot the intruder in the face with his dad's weapon. The intruder died almost instantly and the kids all got out with minor injuries, but my friend reports that that was her worst call to listen to."
"I was crisis/suicide hotline volunteer. One afternoon I got a call from a woman who was crying. She and her husband got into a domestic situation and she needed to chat to calm down. I checked to make sure she was safe. She was, her husband hopped in his truck and sped off, she was alone and locked in the bathroom. She just needed a friendly ear.
We were talking for about 10 mins when there was a pounding on the door. The woman started screaming. He'd gone somewhere and picked up an ax. He was screaming that he was going to kill her as he attempted to get through the door.
The woman gave us her address and we sent the police. She was terrified but ok when the police arrived. He'd taken off when he realized police were on route.
I spoke to the officer and got to say goodbye to the caller."
"I used to work as a 911 operator in a relatively large metro area. One night at about 3 am or so I answered a call from an elderly lady who said she didn't feel good. I tried to get more info about what was wrong - chest pain, trouble breathing, headache, was she diabetic, etc. She gave me her address and phone number and said no one else was home but the front door was unlocked so they could come in. I toned the call out as 'general illness' and kept trying to get more details. No matter what else I asked about what was wrong, all she would say was 'I just don't feel good, can you send someone to help me?'
After a few minutes she said, 'I'm gonna put the phone down for a minute, I need to go to the bathroom.' I tried to get her to stay on the line with me, told her she can do whatever she needs to get ready but I'd like to be able to stay in contact in case there was a problem. She said 'I'm gonna put the phone down, I'll just be a minute.' That was it. I stayed on the line and asked for her every so often but got no reply.
A couple of minutes passed, then the fire department called on the scene so I just disconnected and didn't think much about it. I told them the caller advised front door was unlocked and she was in the bathroom. A couple more minutes and one of the firefighters called over the air with a weird tone and said: 'Dispatch...uh how exactly was this called received?' I told them the call was the first party from the patient's home phone approximately 8 minutes ago. He didn't respond over the air but called the desk from his cell phone which usually only happens when something is going on that they don't want to be broadcasted since anyone can listen in on the radios.
On the phone, he said, 'are you sure this wasn't a third party call from a family member or something?' I said, 'negative, caller advised 'I don't feel good' and said no one else was home, so to the best of my knowledge, the caller is the patient...have you made contact?' He said, 'yea, she was in the bathroom like you said, but she's probably been dead for about 12 hours. Cold to the touch, fully livid, full rigor, we're gonna need a deputy out here.'
Afterward, we pulled the tapes of the radio and phone calls. We checked the time stamps, address, phone number, and went over everything a few times to see if I missed something. I called them back in the morning after the shift to see if they had any more info, but they were just as weirded out as we were. The phone was still in the living room and the patient was dead in the bathroom."
"I was a State emergency service volunteer search and rescue dude in Australia for many years. I did many rescues, body recoveries and so on.
One call out for a rescue/recovery, well 2 technically, has stuck with me for over a decade now. It was when we did the body recovery of a young male suicide victim that had hung himself in a tree. We carried his body out of the bush and his mum and dad and his family were with the police there. They all thanked us and were extremely grateful for us doing it. A year to the day later, we recovered his dad's body from the same tree. He died with pictures of him and his son from a baby to adult and some pills and empty bottles around him. His dad just never got over the death of his son and took his own life as well. Again, we had the same family members thank us for doing it, it was heartbreaking.
I still bring this up quite regularly in toolbox meetings and chats with guys that may be struggling. I work in an industry that has a very high suicide rate and if I can stop at least one other family from going through this then its worth it."
"I got an open line cell phone 911 with what pretty much sounded to me like a death rattle on the line. Like, these long drawn-out gasping breaths with shuddering exhales. It was horrifying. Every so often, the guy would mutter a word or two in response to my questions about where he was, but not enough to actually figure out his location or what had happened.
His phone was mapping near a road so I assumed he'd been run over and I was literally listening to a man die. It went on for nearly twenty minutes while we frantically searched for him. Finally, we got an address associated with the cell number and went to check it. The home was sort of nearby the road from earlier, so then I was thinking he was committing suicide at home while on the line with me.
We found him in his own backyard, too dead wasted to communicate but very much alive. He twisted his ankle whilst trying to hop his fence.
I stand by my assertion that the breathing was still the creepiest thing I've ever had to listen to, but at least it had a good ending."
"My mother works dispatch and I usually heard the worst through her.
The worst by a good margin came from a man in the boonies. He called 911 to report his wife missing. He explained that they're in the process of filing for divorce, they got into an argument, and she left one day and didn't come back. They were still living together since it was early in the filing. Every time I hear this story, as it comes out when people ask about the worst, this is the time my mother said she knew he had killed his wife. It was something about the tone of his voice and the casual nature of the call.
The next couple days were spent scouring the woods looking for a woman, or what was left of her. About a week later they found her buried next to a country road. The best they could tell, the guy sedated her and put her there to die.
If I recall correctly, they use that call in training new dispatchers in my state. It's one of two that my mother has taken to reach that status.
The other involved a shooting. An older couple were arguing one night and the wife shot her husband in the leg. She then calls 911 and reports that she did, indeed, shoot her husband. Then my mother enters the situation. Over the course of the 10-15 minutes it took deputies and an ambulance to arrive on the scene, she had talked the wife into putting the weapon in another location away from herself and her husband, and provide some quick first aid for the injured party, eg. clean towels, elevation, and tons of pressure. She's pretty great at her job."
"I worked in alarm monitoring and I called a customer's 2-way system on a medical alarm. It's like a speakerphone for your whole house. The call was for an elderly woman who was having a hard time breathing. We had another dispatcher get medical sent her way and contact her call list.
The procedure required that we stay on the line until EMS got there and try to engage them/keep them calm. Considering she couldn't breathe, I was not making her speak any more than was necessary. I just occasionally let her know that I was still there and help was on the way.
I heard her weakly say, 'I'm scared, I don't want to die.'
19 year old me has no idea what you say to that. I'm not sure current me does either really. I offered the typical platitude, 'you're gonna be okay, help is going to be there soon.'
A family member made it there before EMS did. I heard a woman's voice yell 'mom!' and footsteps as they crossed the house to her. I told her that she was still conscious, help was on the way.
From the scream of despair I heard moments later, she wasn't. Now the woman is heard is yelling at me, asking where the ambulance is. All I can say is 'on the way.'
That feeling of helplessness to actually help while I listened to someone die, and was made to listen in like some macabre voyeur on this woman's grief shook me."
"I had a call that started out pretty dumb, but was actually pretty serious:
'911, where is your emergency?'
'123 Main St.'
'Ok, what's going on there?'
'I'd like to order a pizza for delivery.' (Oh great, another prank call).
'Ma'am, you've reached 911.'
'Yeah, I know. Can I have a large with half pepperoni, half mushroom and green peppers?'
'Ummm.... I'm sorry, you know you've called 911 right?'
'Yeah, do you know how long it will be?'
'Ok, ma'am, is everything ok over there? Do you have an emergency?'
'Yes, I do.'
'...And you can't talk about it because there's someone in the room with you?' (moment of realization)
'Yes, that's correct. Do you know how long it will be?'
'I have an officer about a mile from your location. Are there any weapons in your house?'
'Can you stay on the phone with me?'
'Nope. See you soon, thanks.'
As we dispatch the call, I check the history at the address and see there are multiple previous domestic violence calls. The officer arrives and finds a couple, female was kind of banged up, and boyfriend had been drinking all day. Officer arrests him after she explains that the boyfriend had been beating her for a while. I thought she was pretty clever to use that trick. Definitely one of the most memorable calls."
"I'm a firefighter in Florida. I have three calls that really affected me.
First was a 13-year-old who had a brain aneurysm. She had a headache, she started burning up, and collapsed with two younger girls in the room. They called 911. We arrived and her right eye pupil was completely dilated while the left was constricted. The mom bursts into the room screaming 'SAVE MY BABY!' We transported as she started posturing which is a sign of increasing intracranial pressure. They pronounced her dead 30 minutes later. I cried like a child as I cleaned up the ambulance. Imagine having a completely healthy and happy little girl and within an hour she's gone.
The 2nd call was an F-350 vs A Harley Davidson motorcycle. The passengers in the F-350 climbed out from the vehicle that was now on its side. The man driving the bike had hit a light pole tearing partially in half. The woman on the back of the motorcycle was thrown into a ditch with her left leg ripped off. She died immediately from blood loss. I remember she looked so much like my sister. I called my sister at 3 AM and told her I loved her.
The third was when some parents left the oldest child of 4 in charge while they went grocery shopping. The oldest sister, who was 13 years old, was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while the youngest brother snuck outside. He drowned in the family pool. We worked on that little boy for so long and the parents never showed up. I remember her screaming 'I'M SORRY' as I drove the ambulance away.
I can't imagine what that little girl feels. What the parents feel. I have nightmares about it."
"I worked answering a non-urgent police line. It's for when police are required but it's not really a lights and sirens problem, enter with intent with no offender on premises, vehicles entered into etc. I'll never forget this one. I've also had a woman call on a Sunday afternoon where it's usually pretty low key. She said she'd killed her mother. She described to me in great detail how she had beaten her, stabbed her and she was sitting in the kitchen with her body as we spoke. It turned out she was severely mentally ill and none of this had actually occurred. But for those 15 minutes, she fooled me completely.
I've also had someone describe to me a very specific bomb threat which they swore black and blue they weren't a part of. But, they told me the size, location, composition and when the bombs were due to explode (approx. 40 mins from when the call started). Again, mentally ill but we tracked him down and he was charged. I had to submit an affidavit to court for prosecution.
But the one that hurt me most was listening to a woman call for help. She was saying her husband was abusive and during the call, he came home and beat her mercilessly while the phone line was active. I heard everything. That was tough to listen to considering I was dating a domestic violence victim at the time.
I no longer work for the police but those are the ones that stick."
"Speaking for my wife here, she had only gone 'solo' a few weeks prior so was still really new at this. She had never gotten calls worse than simple disputes. It's the call where she was listening to a young boy breathing his last breaths after getting crushed by a big cathode TV. The parents had this giant TV sitting on top of a cheap plastic Walmart shelving unit. The kid was kicking it while watching some show and it fell over on top of him. She heard his labored breathing stop and had to continue talking to the mother, who had just witnessed her young son die, to get their location to get them the help they needed.
It kept my wife up for weeks at night, sometimes waking up from nightmares. She's able to deal with it now but it's still the one call that she remembers vividly."
"Worst call I ever had was a call from a 7-year-old girl about her dad who was having diabetic hypoglycemia. Her mum was at work, it was just those two in the house. He was aggressive/agitated and confused which is normal for a hypo. She was crying down the phone and was hiding as she was scared of him.
Then, all of a sudden, she shrieked into my ear, the loudest, blood-curdling scream you can imagine. I tried and ask what was happening and the line went dead as she was screaming. It was like the sort of thing you'd expect to happen in a horror film.
After what felt like forever waiting for the BT operator to come back onto the line and confirm it had disconnected, I called back and the little girl's mum answered the phone. She was home from work and everything was ok. I don't know why the line disconnected, but apparently, he came into the room where she was hiding when she shrieked. Obviously, those few minutes in between felt like an eternity and my mind was thinking the worst.
Another story, but more distressing emotionally for me, was an elderly lady who had called in the middle of the night to say that her husband had stopped breathing. As I'm talking her through CPR, she started apologizing saying she thinks she has had a bad dream as she was doing CPR on her pillow. Her husband had died years before."