We asked 911 operators in the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their most unforgettable experiences while on the job. Here are the jaw-dropping results.
Note: Some of these submissions revolve around pretty serious and heavy topics, so continue at your own discretion.
1."I've been a 911 dispatcher and supervisor for 13 years. My worst call was when a lady escaped her burning house and called 911 to report it. She told me her husband and daughter were still inside. The number one rule for us is to keep people out of the burning building when they get out, but she went back in. She died, along with her family. It was only a few days before Christmas. That call messed me up for a while."
2."One experience that still horrifies me to this day was when I first started out as a 911 operator. I picked up the phone, and an older woman said that someone was in her house. She mentioned that she was all alone and didn’t have anyone or anything to protect her. She then told me that she was hiding, but the intruder was coming near her. I then heard silence on the line. I later found out that she was kidnapped. She's still never been found. I have nightmares about that day, and I wish there was something I could have done."
3."I had a daughter call in for her elderly mother who was experiencing chest pains. About 10 minutes passed, so I called the ambulance for an ETA, but they said they were there. Turned out the daughter had accidentally given me the wrong address. They had recently moved, so she gave me their old address. The chest pains turned into breathing trouble. The new ETA was 10 minutes. The mother stopped responding, and the daughter was crying over the line. Paramedics arrived to perform CPR, and they even used the defibrillator. Sadly, she didn’t make it. That call was pretty hard for me to get over."
4."My sister is a dispatcher. One time she received a call from a man who said he just killed his sister and brother. She kept him on the phone for about five minutes to make sure he didn’t run before officers arrived. She got him to admit they had all been drinking and playing cards and then got into an argument when one of them accused the other of cheating. The two siblings went to bed, but this guy stayed up, stewing. Apparently, he couldn’t let it go. He shot each of them in their beds while they slept, and then he called 911. I heard a partial recording of the call, and my sister sounded calm as hell, but she told me she was screaming on the inside the entire time."
5."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. She 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 cellphone 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..."
"The mother 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 who responded took him to a shelter. I think about him often, and I hope he’s okay. I can’t imagine coming home to find your mother has abandoned you."
6."An older lady in her 70s called in with a sort of polite urgency in her voice. She said she thought she was having a stroke. She told me she had her grandchild at the house with her, and she asked if I'd call her daughter to come get the child. By the time she was done giving me the phone number, there was a very slight slur in her speech. By the time EMS got there (probably no more than five minutes or so), I couldn’t understand a thing she was saying. Fascinating, disturbing, and profoundly sad to hear someone stroke out on the phone as they talk to you."
7."My mother was a 911 operator in Chicago for 15+ years, but one story in particular has stuck with her. In the early 2000s, at around 6 a.m., she got a call from a 15-year-old girl who had been kidnapped. My mom thought it was a prank at first. It was a bait and switch where an older woman bought the young girl drinks and pretended to be friendly and cool, but she was then drugged and handed off to an older guy and locked in his basement. She woke up to a man with a knife. Later on, the man fell asleep, and the girl managed to get a phone and call 911. My mother answered and walked her through what to do, like peeking out the basement windows and trying to find a street sign, but no luck. She then convinced the girl to take the knife and try to break the lock at the top of the stairs..."
"... You get a two-block radius off of cellphones when they're in use, so they sent squad cars up and down the blocks, blaring their lights until the girl could see them and the officers could find her exact location, but no luck again. All of this was done by whisper for close to an hour as the offender was in the room. Luckily, the girl managed to escape through the basement's back door, and she started sprinting away. Considering the location, it was some sort of coach house property, and they never would have found her. My mother and the cop who first responded to the scene were both awarded."
8."I've been a dispatcher for over a decade. One time I took a call from a woman who asked me for an ambulance. Dead voice, no emotion, as if she could have just been calling the bank for their hours. I got and confirmed her address. Again, she was very calm. Then I asked what was going on. In that same lifeless voice, she said, 'My son is dead.' There was no change in her tone whatsoever. I asked if she was sure and asked her to start CPR, which she flatly refused. I begged her to at least try CPR, and she said, 'He is cold and dead, and it's my fault. My fault. My fault.' Her tone never changed. Turned out she had caught her 15-year-old son doing oxies. He puked at some point, but she was totally clueless and just sent him to bed. Sometime during the night, he took more, causing him to vomit again, and he choked to death. I will never forget that dead tone she had. I feel for her to this day, and that call happened in 2009."
9."I’m an ASL interpreter, and we have to interpret 911 calls on occasion. I'll never forget my first-ever 911 call. It was a SIDS call. The mother was holding her dead child in a pure panic. We use video phones for the calls, obviously, so that image is burned into my head."
10."I got a call because a mother fell asleep with the sliding glass door open, and her 1-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl fell into the pool and drowned. The mother never spoke into the phone except to give the address. The rest of the call was her crying and yelling for the kids over and over again. I didn't know what was happening until the officers got on scene, but after hearing her say the word 'kids,' plural, I upgraded the EMS to send an additional unit as well."
11."I got a call from a male, 50s, who lived with his elderly parents. He woke up from a nap to his 75-year-old mother standing over him with a hammer and another tool. He could hear his father groaning in the other room. She had just bashed in the 81-year-old dad's head with the hammer. The caller went outside to call for help. During the call, he could see the mother through the kitchen window, cleaning the bloody weapons..."
"... Turned out the husband kept belittling the wife over 60 years of marriage, telling her to make him sandwiches and so on. Because of his age, he wasn't supposed to drive, which she in turn bugged him about. When she told him she didn't have sandwich fixings, he sarcastically said HE was going to drive to the store. Without saying a word, the wife went to the garage and came back with the tools. While the husband sat in the recliner, she hit him from behind. Officers arrived and had just enough time to ask him who hit him, and he said his wife. Then he lost consciousness and never woke up. At 75 years old, she got life in prison."
12."I had a coworker who was a former 911 dispatcher for about three years. The last call she ever took was from a man who only said the words 'find me' after she answered the call, and then she heard the sound of a gun firing. The caller had killed himself and was asking her to trace the call to his address so his body could be found. She quit the next morning."
13."I recently had an open-line 911 call where the person that called was the victim of a home invasion. He was smart enough to call and hide the phone so we could hear everything that was going on. I heard him begging for someone to just take the money and leave. 'Please don't kill me. I'm an old man,' he said. I heard another male voice in the background, swearing and telling him he was going to shoot the old man in the face. I was afraid to say anything because I didn't want the suspect to know or hear that the victim had called. It was the longest call of my life, and I thought for sure I was going to hear this poor guy get murdered on the line. Thankfully, our officers got there fairly quickly, surrounded the building, and caught the intruder who was trying to go out a back window..."
"... The intruder got arrested, and the old man survived with only minor injuries from being punched several times. The suspect was super high and was a friend of a caretaker of the elderly person. Apparently, the caretaker had mentioned that the old man had money hidden in the house."
14."Several years back, a local patrol officer in my area was working dispatch while recovering from a surgery. He took the 911 call, and it happened to be his new fiancé. She had just been stabbed and sexually assaulted by a home intruder. He couldn't even leave to go home until someone got there to relieve him, which took several hours."
15."I'll never forget my first infant-not-breathing call. I was fresh off training, working the midnight hour. The mother and father were both understandably hysterical. I could hear him in the background yelling obscenities, telling me to stop asking questions and get the ambulance there. She was sobbing so hysterically over the phone that I could barely confirm the address of the emergency. Neither of them was listening to the CPR instructions I was trying to give, and no amount of repetitive persistence was going to bring them back from the brink. I ultimately knew their baby was dead from what the mother described, and CPR wasn't going to change that. I stepped out for a break after that call. My hands wouldn't stop shaking. I was numb to it all at first..."
"... My supervisor took me to the side and asked if I needed a CISD (i.e. a way for emergency personnel to deal with traumatic experiences by talking to a trained professional). I think he could tell that I was in some sort of shock after the call. I stubbornly refused. I probably shouldn't have."
16."A little after 2:00 a.m., I got a call about a car going off a 100-foot embankment and into the river. Officers arrived on scene and began their rescue/body search. I got relayed the names of the deceased from the car, and they'd all been friends of mine. I knew five out of six people in the car. As the search was wrapping up, I started to get calls from parents of the victims who I knew. It was an extremely rough night in a rural area."
17."My ex-wife is a 911 dispatcher. A few years before our divorce, she was at work on a cool summer night. They had the windows open in the dispatch center. Out of nowhere, she and a fellow dispatcher heard blood-curdling screams from outside, and within seconds, the phones started ringing. Across the street is a community center that is often rented out for parties and events. A large birthday party was being held there that night. As people were wrapping up and getting ready to head home, a large crowd gathered in the parking lot as people said their goodbyes. One family opted to start their vehicle and put their 6-year-old in the car. The 6-year-old began crawling and playing inside the vehicle, eventually putting it in reverse and running over a portion of the crowd, including a 2-year-old girl who had her chest run over and died. Our daughter was 3 years old at the time, and the whole situation really did some emotional damage to my ex-wife."
18."I got a 911 call about a vehicle that ran off the road. The caller told me that the female driver was unconscious but had a pulse. He then proceeded to tell me that the passenger was a fatal. I asked if he had checked for a pulse, at which point he told me no. The passenger was a young child who had been decapitated. I asked him to find anything he could to cover the child because I didn’t want the mother to regain consciousness and have that be the last image she had of her child."
19.And finally: "I received a call from an elderly lady who had trouble breathing. I had taken several calls from her and her husband in the past, so I recognized her voice. I dispatched an ambulance to her residence and held her on the line. There was a 15-minute ETA because she lived in a very rural part of West Virginia, so I tried to keep her calm with smalltalk. When the ambulance arrived, I let them know she was in severe respiratory distress and that I still had her on the line. I let her know the ambulance was coming to the door and that she should answer it. She said 'okay' and hung up. Pretty normal, right? Well, here’s where it gets weird..."
"... The EMT and paramedic called back about a minute later and advised that no one was answering the door. We had a sheriff unit who was in the area who arrived at about that time. He confirmed the address and advised he was breaching the door to make access to the house. Five minutes went by, and the paramedic on scene radioed in and asked who the caller was. I advised that it was the elderly female who lived at the residence. He told me that he needed to speak with my supervisor. My supervisor confirmed the information and asked what was going on. Apparently, the elderly female had been dead for a while and was already in full rigor mortis. They thought I got the caller wrong, but the other dispatchers played the tape back and confirmed that it was the female who called. The ambulance transferred her to the hospital, and we got the same calls and disbelief from the doctors. So…we all think I took a call from a ghost!"
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity, and some are from this Reddit thread.