28 Former 911 Operators Reveal The One Call That They Could Never, Ever Forget

911 operators are trained to deal with extremely stressful situations. Read more on this Reddit thread here. Sometimes, they’re faced with a situation that they can’t forget, and here are some of them.

1. Quick to catch on

I had a call that started out pretty dumb, but was actually pretty serious:

“911, where is you 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 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 was drunk. 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.

2. Almost like The Shining

I wasn’t a 911 operator, but a supervisor for AT&T’s ’00 Info’ directory information (think 411). While remotely listening in on some agents one evening one particular call was escalated to tier 2 for assistance. On the other end of the line was a woman who was hysterical saying her husband was trying to kill her.
Protocol dictates that we trace the number to the local LEC (local exchange carrier) and notify law enforcement in the area. We do this but we had no way to connect the call to the local sheriff dispatch (silly I know, but we technically weren’t true operators and our equipment didn’t support that functionality). Basically we had to act as a relay between the LEO and the victim on the phone.

By this time I had moved from my office to seat myself next to the tier 2 agent to help her keep her cool while everything was going down. The agent, let’s call her April (because that’s her name) was handling the call very well at first but started to lose her shit as the call progressed.

While listening in on the call next to April and trying to convey what is going on to the LEO on the other line, we hear the woman who initially called in say:

Her: He went to get an axe!

Us: Ma’am, where are you now?

Her: I’m locked in the bathroom, please hurry!

Us: The sheriff’s office is on their way, they say they are five minutes out.

Then we hear loud banging on the door. Her husband was trying to chop his way through the door with the axe. April lost it when she heard the woman start screaming knowing her husband was coming after her with an axe. She threw her headset off and walked away saying something like ‘I can’t do it! I can’t!’ April heads off to the ladies room to collect herself.

So I pick up the headset to reassure the lady on the phone.

Me: Ma’am, the sheriff is at your house now. Where is your husband.

Her: Back bathroom, he is at the door!

More loud banging from the axe. By this time the woman was overly hysterical and crying madly.

Then: “Sheriffs department, drop the axe!”


Pop pop, pop pop

The local LEO dispatch directed me to ask the lady open the bathroom door and she does. The next voice I heard on her phone was a Sheriff Deputy. All he said was this: “The situation is under control, operator. Disengage the call.”

I still get chills and all teary thinking about it.

3. No explanation

First ever 911 I answered was about a naked man sitting in a bathtub on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. He was drunk and we still don’t know where he got the tub.

4. Man took a nap after he killed her too

From the late 90s. Old man calls saying his wife is dead. Presumed to be natural, ask how he knows she’s dead.

“Cause I stabbed her.”

“Why did you stab her?”

“I couldn’t take it anymore.”

5. A happy ending

Gave childbirth instructions to a deaf father via relay for his deaf wife. They were the victims of a home invasion and were tied to chairs. Burglars saw her in labor, panicked, then left. Took dad hours to free himself and call.

While giving the instructions I obtained a suspect description to put out to surrounding agencies. They were caught in the city to our north during the call.

Baby boy was born perfectly healthy.

6. Just listen to someone

I worked in a call centre a few years ago, not for 911 but for general purchases for car parts. Anyway some guy phones me asking for a car part, find the part number and place the order as I would normally do. I then hear him sigh and begin to cry, naturally I ask if everything is ok and his response is “You don’t want to listen to my problems mate.” Me being a kind guy who wanted to get rid of some of his shift I said “Sure, what’s up?” and ended up having so many feels.

Turns out his wife had motor neuron disease and had very recently passed away and he was fixing up her car to sell it on. He said it got to the stage where she couldn’t walk, then couldn’t speak, couldn’t do basic tasks such as dress herself/ shower etc. Eventually she didn’t even recognise his face and the disease ultimately took her.

He then tells me about how he has to move house as he can’t stand to be in the property without his wife any more and that he had £80,000 worth of pills in a drawer that he had nothing to do with. He said he will probably donate them to charity.

Anyway after about a 50 minute conversion with him he was so glad that he asked for the company address. Now I was new on the job so didn’t realise the dangers of disclosing this information but I gave it to him and that Christmas I received a card from him saying thanks for taking the time to listen to him and that it really helped him get through a tough time just speaking to someone about it.

So yeah, he was such a nice guy and I will remember him for the rest of my days because he really made an impact on me with his story.

7. A hero

Harley motorcycle tipped over and the clutch lever went into a 4 year old’s eye. Parent was on the line asking what to do. Suddenly, she said, “They’re going lift the motorcycle.” I emphatically told her to tell them to stop and wait for rescue and EMS. Rescue ended up cutting off the clutch lever and transporting the kid to hospital. She underwent surgery. That was 1982. Just last year, I met the lead rescue officer and the girl herself, now fully grown. They wanted to meet the 911 operator that saved her vision.

8. Very proud, very crazy

I’m actually a police call taker. I will tell you broadly that the only one that has made me leave the floor to cool off was a man confessing to a robbery, bawling his eyes out with shame. He wasn’t a bad guy from his prime. Just very desperate and trying to help his family and made a very stupid choice. That hit me harder than anything else, because most of the people who do these things are total shit rats.

I’m going to add another one in, on a lighter note because OP never said they had to be tragic 911 calls:

Got a call just yesterday on the non-emerg line from a very old, very proud German Canadian man who just babbled on for 5 minutes straight about having come to Canada before WWII in a boat with windows and helped build Canada and loved Harper and he built skyscrapers and was a plumber and BLAH BLAH BLAH and would NOT be interrupted. I just sat back on mute and laughed my ass off. When I finally went to kick him off the line he finished with LONG LIVE (our mayor)! LONG LIVE CANADA!! I LOVE EVERYBODY! I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!

9. Nightmares

My wife wakes up crying once and a while after dreaming about certain of her calls. It’s always either “mommy won’t wake up” or “I backed over my boy”. She has not been on the job for 15 years, some things just leave marks.

10. Absolutely heartbreaking

I had an 8-year-old call about his mom not waking up and he didn’t know if she was breathing so I had to walk him through how to figure out if she was breathing or not. I still remember him sobbing on the phone just saying, “Mommy” over and over cause he was in shock and me having to be a prick and keep him in the room trying to figure it out instead of getting him outta there. He didn’t have to see that.

11. Not the most tragic, but still

I was a 911 dispatcher for several years and one of my most memorable calls was a hysterical woman at about midnight one stormy night. She was absolutely incomprehensible. I kept saying, “Ma’am. Ma’am, you have to calm down. I can’t understand you. Ma’am.” This went on for what felt like forever. I couldn’t get anything useful out of her. My officers were en route to this obviously horrifying situation.

Finally, she said something about being with her sister. “How old is your sister?” One. Instantly suspicious, I asked, “How old are you?” Five.

A five-year-old boy. So that’s how I inadvertently called a little boy ma’am many, many times. Oops.

The storm had woken him up and his parents were gone. (They went out to move their cars to shelter in case of hail.) He was just very scared. My officers still responded and talked to the parents about not leaving sleeping children alone, but everybody was unscathed.

It wasn’t my most tragic call, but it is one I’ve never forgotten. Poor little ma’am.

12. Man finds his girlfriend with another man

I have a couple, but the one that takes the cake so to speak is this one.

worked in a very busy city so shooting, raping, robberies etc were not a novelty but a norm unfortunately. We were used to it and I have heard several people die with me on the phone. This lady though… So she calls and says, “My husband has a gun to my head and won’t leave em alone you gotta come quick…” She’s screaming into the phone then she puts it down. All I can hear at this point is her yelling at her husband, “But I LOVE YOU BABY!” Then BOOM! Gunshot. “BUT I LOVE YOU!” BOOM! Gunshot. something garbled.. “BUT I LOVE YOU!” BOOM! Gunshot.

So at this point I’m standing up yelling into my little microphone, “Stop saying I love you!” And everyone in the room with me now turns and looks at me like I have 5 heads. But I was caught up in the call.

Turns out the man walked in on the woman and found another guy in the closet. Said guy ran outta the house, but the woman didn’t make it out alive.

13. What the hell

Before my Grandma died we had to call 911 to get her to the hospital. An older lady, for some reason still an EMT (or first responder, I forgot) came to the house. She had trouble getting up all the stairs to the front door and fell backwards. She thought she hit her head, so she touched it and saw blood all over her palm. In reality she just scraped her hands, but thought the blood was from her head, so she fainted.

We had to call ANOTHER ambulance.

14. I feel shaken just reading this

I am not an emergency phone operator but my dad was a phone operator for the Samaritans. I remember him coming home one morning visibly shaken up. I found him later in the day crying (the only time I have ever seen him cry). He never returned to the Samaritans. He has only ever told me some of the details of the phone call but never the full story.

He had spent five or six hours on the phone to a young woman as she drank and took sleeping pills and cut herself. She’d had a terrible life (I don’t now any of the details). But she passed away while on the phone to my dad. He said that he felt so powerless, so unable to do anything for this young woman as she died in front of him.

15. Gut-wrenching

Back in my early 20s before I got onto the street as a Paramedic I worked as a 911 operator in a small suburb. I picked up the phone one morning when the tones came out just purely out of boredom. It wasn’t my job to answer the line because I was on secondary dispatch and we had call takers available but it was a slow day.

On the other end of the phone was a young woman in her early 30’s or late 20’s who was quite calm and flat.

“Hi, my name is Jane Doe at 123 Maple Dr and my son just hung himself.”

I didn’t think anything of this. It happens frequently, usually not by hanging, but by other means. Still, not surprising.

“I have an Ambulance and Police responding. How old is your son?”

“He just turned 11-years-old.”

This got my attention and caught me off guard.

“Is he still breathing?”

“Yes, I cut him down. He stabbed himself in the neck, too. It doesn’t look bad though.”

I asked the rest of the pre-requisite information and passed it along to the main dispatcher who related it to responders. The boy’s father had spoke with him the week before and told him, “I don’t love you. I hate you. You’re not my son.” and abandoned the family.

The mother and her family planned a trip for that weekend to try to help have some fun and get the kid away from home and not think about things. The boy didn’t want to go because he was sure his father would return home any minute to hug him and tell him that truly loved his son and that he was sorry. By leaving his father wouldn’t be able to see him so he thought death was the best option.

He lived. I check on his Facebook every now and then. Drug abuse problems, etc. I never add him or talk to him but I still remember his name, his address, and the tears his mother couldn’t cry.

16. Uh…we’ve got a Code 69 here.

My first call I ever had to dispatch on the radio.

Two homeless dudes blowing each other on the bus.

I’m sorry it’s not serious, our traumatic but it will always stay with me.

17. A terrible, terrible way to die

911 Dispatcher here. I took a call once of a house being on fire. So of course we send fire department out. Soon as they arrive on scene they ask for the police to respond (police don’t typically respond to this area with FD).

Turns out the story was that a girl’s fiancé arrives home and dumps gas on her and lights her in fire. She then runs to the shower to try to put herself out. He follows her, turns the shower off, dumps more gas on her and lights her back on fire. She then runs thru the house thereby lighting the house on fire. She then runs out of the house as FD arrives on scene. So when FD pulled up they had arrived to a body collapsed in the yard on fire. When PD arrives, the male fiancé walks out of the burning house, let’s himself into the back of a police car and says, “take me to jail.”

18. “Accidentally” shot him

I am a 911 operator. My ‘favorite’ call I have personally took that I won’t forget is about a couple at McDonald’s.

They had just purchased a new vehicle and went out to celebrate the purchase at a local McD. The wife for some reason decided she had better check the spare tire and make sure they had one before they left town and found a gun instead. I received a call from the wife stating she just accidentally shot her husband. When I was asking about exit wounds she said it did not penetrate but burned him real badly. Turns out wife shot the husband with a flare gun when she went to show it to him. They did not finish their big macs and I’m not sure how that marriage ended up. He wasn’t a happy man on the way to the emergency room to get burn treatment!

19. Well, shit

My mom was a 911 dispatcher for over thirty years. She had many crazy calls but one story she told me always stuck out from the rest.

One day a man called in. With a calm voice he told my mom he was in the local hotel and that he had doused himself with gasoline and was going to kill himself. He called in so they could evacuate the hotel because “I don’t want to hurt anyone else.”

While my mom is trying to talk him out of it, she is on another line to the hotel letting them know what’s going on and to get everyone out.

While emergency services are en route she has to stay on the line whenever possible to keep people calm, reassure them help is on the way and to try her best to keep track of what’s up on the other end.

As soon as the guy heard the sirens coming in the distance he asked her if everyone had been evacuated yet. She tried to stall her answer thinking he’d light himself up as soon as she said yes. Didn’t work.

Seconds later she started hearing the worst screams she’s ever heard (and she’s heard many during that job over the years) and then the phone went static. And then silence.

He died in that hotel and mom had to listen. Lousy day.

20. I feel incredible sorrow

My sister is a 911 Operator in Southern California and told me this pretty horrifying story.

A call came in from a teenage boy probably 14-15 and said that his father was trying to kill his mother. His father cornered his mother in their bedroom and nailed the door shut from the inside. The boy was frantically trying to break the door down and you could hear him banging/breaking down on the door and his mother screaming like shes being brutally beaten.

My sister says that they live in a really awkward place that might actually take a little time to get to so in the meanwhile this kid finally manages to break down the door and confronts his father. His father turns on him and starts beating him instead of his mother now. After this goes on for about 5 mins she doesn’t hear the boy anymore but hears the mother crying or whatever and the father screaming at her. The police finally arrive and arrest the man.

Unfortunately it gets worse. The kid is dead. His father brutally beat him to death for 5 mins or something like that. There was a news report about it with pictures of the boy but I couldn’t find it anywhere.

21. Crowdsourcing help

Former sheriff’s department dispatcher in charge of non-emergency and 911 calls for a rural, southern county. I picked up the job part-time and was in the process of training. My supervisor was sitting next to me listening to my end of the call, but she was not hooked into the line to hear the whole call.

Line rings, I answer, it’s 911. A young girl, less than 10 years old, is telling me that she, her mother, and her baby sibling are locked in a bedroom. Her uncle is pacing around outside the door holding a knife and threatening to kill them all. She does not know the house number/fire number where they are and mom has basically checked out of the conversation out of fear.

I have a vague idea of where she is so I send deputies in her direction with the promise that I will get better directions. As is typical in rural areas, everybody owned a scanner and listened like it was their job. My phone starts ringing off the hook. So I am reassuring this little girl on one handset, and holding a second handset up to my other ear taking directions from concerned members of the public. Directions like “Go until you see a broke down truck. Keep going. When you get to the second broke down truck, turn right and continue until you see a large rock.” It was also late enough in the evening that everything was dark out.

The little girl tells me there might be a back door that is unlocked. Members of the public who know the house just from the general location and number/gender of occupants are calling in confirming that there is a back door that my deputies should enter through and that they will not be seen by the perpetrator if he has retreated to the living room. My guys arrive, sneak in the back, walk right up to the guy sitting in a recliner, disarm him, and arrest him. Family gets emergency protective orders so he (ideally) cannot be a threat to them again.

I almost quit after that call because my adrenaline was running, I was shaking, and I’d had to handle it mostly myself because my supervisor couldn’t hear what was going on. I stayed with it and it was one of the best jobs I had. I quit when I moved to another state, but it was a sad decision to make.

22. Trained to pick up on weird things

First, we were not primary call takers. The sheriff department dispatchers would answer the 911 calls, then transfer and fire or ems calls to us. Anything involving law enforcement was handled by the SO.

He answers. She says she wants to make an appointment to see Dr so-and-so. He informs her that this is 911, and while we can send her an ambulance, we cannot make doctors appointments. She says she understands. He asks if she would like an ambulance. She says no. She then says that she just wants to make an appointment, and that next Thursday worked fine for her. My partner again informs her that 911 is for emergencies only. He again offers an ambulance. She again refuses. They go in a circles for a while. And here’s where it gets interesting. Anyone else would have ended the call, but my partner this evening was one of the smartest dudes I’ve ever met. He’s pretty good at putting little pieces together. So instead of ending the call, he asked one last question.

“Ma’am, 911 is for emergencies only. Do you understand that” she said that she did. He had a sudden thought, and asked her if she was having an emergency. She said yes, with an oddly desperate tone to her voice. He then asked her “is there someone standing next to you who is threatening you?” she simply said yes, but you could feel a sort of “thank God someone figured it out” tone to her voice.

We called the sheriff department back and let them know. Apparently the estranged husband had returned to the house and was threatening her. She was too scared to call and ask for the cops, so she was pretending to call the doctor’s office. She’s lucky my buddy happened to answer.

23. The hardest call of all

My mom has been a 911 operator over 30 years. I won’t ask her this question, but I will tell you what I know was her hardest call.

The pastor at our church helped my mom through so much. When she married, had my sister, then step dad cheated on her, mentally abused her, then divorced her, and she struggled. But he was so kind. Providing when they could around holidays and Christmas so we could have gifts. This was a span of 18 years. He retired, still lived in our community.

She got a call from a member of the church who she knew. He and the pastor’s wife had been out, they came home and the retired pastor was on the floor. Wife was screaming, my mom giving CPR instructions while dispatching the fire and medics. He didn’t make it. Cardiac arrest.

The friend knew my mom answered, but never told anyone.

24. That one last breath

I’m not a 911 operator but I spent time doing OnStar/Telematics type stuff, and the moments you remember are those when you’re still connected to the vehicle once the dispatch has been made after an accident.

I’ve heard a brother beg for his other brother not to die as he bled out, not sure if he actually did.

The one that has stuck with me the most is the one I initially heard the least on – airbag signal, connected to vehicle. I heard a sigh and then silence outside. Nothing but the sounds of passing traffic. A coworker then completes the dispatch (standard procedure) and I attempt to make contact a time or two with no luck. It’s simply a matter of remaining on the line to listen to make sure the ambulance gets there.

Then, a car stops and I hear talking in the background. Soon after someone else stops. Finally – someone starts a last rites type of prayer after asking someone to join hands. I realize then that what I heard at the very beginning of the call was their last breath. The only time that this person’s entire existence crossed mine was at the last possible moment. And they don’t even know it.

Life is fickle. Be good to everyone.

25. Butt fucking

I was an intern at a local police department and I was working with dispatch for the day. We received a call from a concerned citizen complaint.

Operator: “911, what is your emergency?”

Citizen: mumble mumble mumble

Operator: “I’m sorry ma’am, could you please speak up?”

Citizen: “I said there’s two guys FUCKING in a parked truck!!”

Operator: “Yes ma’am, we’ll get someone out there immediately.”

The operator hung up and we both immediately started laughing (he had the caller on speaker so I could listen). I asked him if he was going to send someone out there and he just shrugged and told me sometimes people need some fun.

26. Assess the situation, goddammit

I’m not a 911 operator, but I used to produce local news and I got a call one day that a young man had been beaten to death because the 911 operator wouldn’t send someone to the scene when people called for help.

I got the 911 tape and sure enough, that’s what happened. The woman who was calling in was hysterical. The operator was getting frustrated. In the background, you could hear the supervisor saying things like, “Uh-uh, no, no, she is not talking to us like that. Naw, tell her you are hanging up, girl! Naw, uh-uh.” The operator was saying things like, “Look, either you get it together or I’m not calling this in. You need to get yourself in order.” The woman wasn’t being rude, but she was crying and then, she cursed. She wasn’t cursing at the operator, but just, “Oh, goddamn, they’re killing him! Oh, fuck! Help!” The operator, in a very calm tone says, “Ma’am, I don’t appreciate your language. I’m disconnecting, call back when you know how to act right.”

I ran the tape on air. It was big fiasco. The supervisor was suspended, but not fired. The kid died and it was questionable whether responding faster would have made a difference. The operator who was actually taking the call was not disciplined, I can’t remember, but maybe because her supervisor was egging it on?

This happened in my home town which is quite literally one of the most miserable places in the country (got number 7 on the most depressed cities list). The amount of crazy and just human shittiness I saw there was amazing.

It happened 20 years ago or so. My blood pressure still rises when I think about it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pissed off. What petty, crappy people. In fact, I’m getting pissed off all over again now. Still effects me. Several things that happened there still makes my blood run cold. I had to get out.

27. A suicide

I worked briefly as a 911 operator, we dealt with alot of North America.

Alot of the calls were break ins, but the one I will always remember was a call from a man in North Carolina, he was harvesting his crops and some guy walked into his farm and laid down in front of his tractor.

You could hear the guys wife in the background going hysterical.

Guy got decapitated and everything.

Was a weird experience for me.

28. A funny situation

I actually took a call last night where a macaw had got into a tree. The owner went up after it and got stuck. Her husband calls and we send the fire department. The fire truck got on scene and noticed that while the husband was waiting for the firefighters, he too got stuck in the tree. The best radio traffic I have ever heard. “Umm, one male, one female, and one bird stuck in a tree. We’ll be out investigating.”

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