in , ,

911 Operators Describe The One Call That Haunts Them To This Day


WARNING: mentions of violence, suicide, death

Though many of us have difficult, exhausting jobs, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to say our work is not especially scarring.

Emergency dispatchers, on the other hand, have terrible stories they could tell.

Redditor Onatic420 asked: 

“911 Operators, what call scares you till this day?”

Some remembered being there for someone’s worst moment.

“My sister called 911 and while she was trying to do CPR, she was begging, ‘Daddy, please wake up!’ and that’s something that’s been branded into my mind ever since then.”

“I still think about that a lot, even though it was 4 1/2 years ago already.” – Enuke2003

“Every call where someone is reporting an unresponsive relative. Some will let you walk them through the CPR process if they don’t know it, some won’t.”

“Every one of them, you hear the caller at some point pleading with the patient to not leave them. Most times they do though.”

“Parents, spouses, children, I’ve had them all call. Never gets easier.” – RaisinBranCrunch

“My husband died of a sudden heart attack. I feel terrible for the 911 operator who took my call.”

“He had passed by the time paramedics got there, so the guy on the phone with me had to listen to me scream and cry and beg. I cannot imagine having to hear that at my job.” – LivingDeadCode

Others had gutwrenching stories about children and families.

“I was a 911 operator.”

“When I asked for the address, I got an angry man yelling, ‘Just get the f**kin’ ambulance here!'”

“When I asked what happened, the caller said, ‘You don’t need to f**kin’ know that!”’

“‘I just need to know what happened so I know who to send and what equipment to bring, sir’.”

“‘Just send a godd**n ambulance, my kid’s having a seizure! Don’t send any f**kin’ police’.”

“‘Don’t send police’ coming from a caller is basically them telling on themselves. Please send police, because the patient or the EMS crew or both could be in danger.”

“So I passed a note to my partner, who was dispatching: ‘Send PD. Extremely uncooperative caller’.”

“I tried my best to get through the rest of the questions (how old is the kid, are they conscious, are they breathing, has the seizing stopped, etc…). I got nothing but verbal abuse.”

“All I knew is that a pediatric patient had a seizure when the call started, there was yelling in the background, and there was some terrible yelling in the foreground.”


“‘HEY, WHAT THE F**K, B***H’.”

“And that was it. Police had the caller.”

“The patient ended up being a toddler, who had been beaten to within an inch of their life by that a**hole. That was terrifying and sad and I hugged my own kid a little tighter that night.” – insertcaffeine

“Not scary, but I think about them often.”

“Mother of 4 called in saying the trailer was on fire and her bedroom door was locked from the outside. I could hear her kids screaming and coughing in the background.”

“I asked her if she could open a window, but they were nailed shut for some reason. Then we had her shove blankets under the door to stop the smoke from coming in before the fire department gets out there.”

“After about 5 min the coughing dies down and she stops responding to me. Nothing at all.”

“Then the fire department comes over the line saying the homeowner came out and that no one else was inside so we could slow the ambulance. We kept telling them we’re on the phone with people inside but they assured us there was not.”

“Eventually, they pulled the people out, mother and 2 of the kids died. The man who came out was letting this family stay with him and he torched it and left them in there.”

“The second was a woman calling on her husband while they were fighting, she was screaming, saying he was in the room and had a gun and wasn’t sure if he was going to shoot her or himself.”

“Seconds later I hear a gunshot and blood curdling screaming. I asked who had been shot and she said he shot himself in the head.”

“Impossible to get that 1 minute of chaos out of my head and it was months ago” – raegirlheygirll

“Got a 911 call with just screaming. Nothing intelligible, just the loudest screaming you’ve ever heard. I started officers to the house.”

“Then a kid started yelling that her uncle was trying to kill her, her sister, and her grandmother. She started screaming again, there was a thud, and then no more sound.”

“Officers got there and a man walked out into the driveway and said, ‘I did it. I killed them’.”

“He was mentally ill and lived with his mother. She had been trying to get him committed, with doctors saying he wasn’t a danger to himself or others. His 9-year-old twin nieces were visiting from out of state.”

“He snapped that morning. Bludgeoned them all with blunt objects, including a large vase. His mom and one niece died. One twin survived with extensive injuries. It was a horrifying call.” – IWantALargeFarva

“A guy in my neighborhood killed his whole family, then called 911 and told them what he had done before killing himself.”

“I always wondered what it was like for the person who took that call and the cops who showed up to find the scene.”

“I knew the son pretty well. I was on my way to school that morning when the cops were rolling in and blocking off the street.” – markitf**kinzero

There were awful break-ins.

“A family member worked as a police dispatcher and received a call from an elderly woman.”

“Her husband had just been killed in their garage by an intruder. She heard it happening. She’s wheelchair-bound but the phone was next to her.”

“She frantically begged my family member to help her. While he was on the phone with her, the criminal cut her throat. My family member stayed on the line three more minutes until the cops got there.”

“He could hear the sounds of the attack, her gasping and gurgling noises. He kept telling her help was coming and to hold on.”

“Amazingly, she survived.”

“The criminal was later caught. A 17-year-old who just wanted the thrill of killing someone and picked them at random. He’s on death row now.” – peeweemax

And there were tragedies.

“My neighbors when I was a kid, Mrs. C had dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s, and Mr. C was like a third grandfather to me.”

“We hadn’t seen him in a week so my mom went over to see if they were ok. Mrs. C told us Mr. C was still asleep, so my mom called 911.”

“I’m glad we didn’t go in there because apparently Mr. C had passed in his sleep a few days before and Mrs. C didn’t realize.”

“Very sad for us, but I’m very grateful for the police officers who were so kind and made sure a little kid like me didn’t have to see the details. Great memories of him, though! He taught me a lot about gardening that I still use today.” – ahw34

“Former 911 operator here.”

“Sometimes the calls that stick with you aren’t the most physically traumatic. I once had a call from a 17-year-old kid who came home from a sleepover to find that his mother had moved.”

“Just packed up his sister and everything in the house and left while he was gone with no forwarding address or information. She also turned off his cell phone that morning so literally, the only number he could call was 911.”

“He was trying so hard not to cry and his voice was shaking as he kept apologizing to me for calling 911. He just didn’t know what else to do and had no other family.”

“She also took everything so all he had was a couple of things that he had taken to the friend’s house. He told me his 18th birthday was in a couple of weeks and he literally had nothing.”

“The officers that responded took him to a shelter. I think about him often and I hope he’s ok. Even if he was a kid who got in trouble or had behavioral issues, I can’t imagine coming home to find your mother has abandoned you.” – gabbobbag

These stories will surely stay with us for a while—we can only imagine how the dispatchers felt.

These are the kinds of stories, whether horrible or heartbreaking, that make us want to hold onto our loved ones a little tighter.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at


Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit