Being a 911 operator has to be a terrifying job. You’ve got people calling you in their most desperate times searching for help. While most days may not be too dramatic, the ones that are would stick with you for years to come. Recently a Reddit thread asked 911 operators to share the one call that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Here are some of the most notable responses.
1) Hurricane Katrina
I was a 911 Operator in Mobile, AL the day Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. We started getting lots of calls from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast for some reason. I guess they started routing to us after all the 911 centers to the west of us started going down. Anyways, I got a call from a woman who said she was trapped in her house on Gordon Street between Florida and Law. I was confused at first because we have a Florida Street in Mobile, and after checking and double checking and not being able to find her address I asked her what city she was calling from and she said “Im in New Orleans”. I tried to route her to New Orleans 911 and New Orleans Fire Department but could not get through. She started screaming and said the water was coming up into the attic where she was. I told her to find something heavy and break the attic vent out so she could get out on to her roof, but the vent was too small for her to crawl through. She sat down and started crying. I told her I would stay on the line with her for as long as she wanted me to. I stayed on the line and listened as she cried, prayed, cussed, and prayed some more. A little while later I could hear her struggling to keep her head and phone above water, then the phone went dead. To this day I don’t know if she lived or died. I quit 911 three months after Katrina.
2) The Baby
I’m a police officer. We went to a call a little while ago. The operator was reading the text to us down the radio. “Oh my god she jumped, she’s jumped…….WHERE’S THE FUCKING BABY” and so on in this vane. I have never driven like such a maniac in my life to get to that call. In the end the lady had killed herself and the baby was fine but the operator must have been in bits.
I had a woman call in who was hiding in her closet and told me her ex-boyfriend was breaking into her house. She told me that they had a violent history. I got her information and told her to do what she needed to do to stay safe and leave the line open no matter what. While officers were enroute I heard him come in through a window and start beating her. He heard sirens coming and took off. Luckily, since she left the line open I was able to let the officers know when he took off and they caught him near the apartment. I think the worst part was the two minutes after he left, I sat there listening to the woman weeping and not being able to comfort her because she was too far away to hear me.
4) 1979 New York City
Got a call from a crying child - a little boy - saying his mom and dad were fighting and his dad said he was going to throw the mom out of the window. I could hear a terrible fight going on in the background - woman screaming, things breaking, man yelling, etc. The poor kid didn’t know his address. We didn’t have the technology for call ID and would have to use reverse telephone books. A trace would take forever. Anyway while I’m trying to get the address I hear a horrific scream and glass breaking. A few seconds later the other operators in the room are getting calls about a woman lying in the courtyard who came out of a window. Very sad. Worst of all is that I am sure someone else in this apartment building must have heard this fight but no one called for help until it was too late. Poor kid. Working 911 in NYC during the 70s/80s was a nightmare.
The toughest ones for me involve kids. Any time a parent finds their child dead is especially tough. The single worst call I’ve ever taken though was a woman who was calling in that she was hearing weird noises in her house. While walking through her house she started screaming and told me there was someone in her house. There we a couple soft pops followed by a gargling sound. After the officers had cleared the house and found her, it finally came out during the investigation that her adult son had killed her while high and freaking out. Gunshots don’t sound like you’d think on the phone, they’re rather soft. It’s an eerie sound, something so violent being so soft that if you aren’t paying attention you can miss it.
6) Christmas Day
A daughter called on Christmas Day last year reporting that her father had locked himself in the back shed after an argument with the mother and was trying to hang himself. Told her to bust down the door and cut him down with whatever she could find. She was probably about 15yrs old and was yelling at her little sister to go back to the house and get some scissors or a knife to cut the noose as he was swinging from the neck. The thing that sticks with me the most about the call was that she was not panicking and was able to convey my instructions to her (obviously freaked out) family members around her to help save her dad. By the time her father was cut down and the noose loosened from his neck, the paramedics and police arrived on scene and the call was terminated. Shook me up a bit by the fact that a parent can attempt this in front of his family - let alone on Christmas day. I have found that children are the most calm and responsive to instructions whereas adults tend to freak out more and panic to the point of being next to useless in an emergency.
7) Missing Boyfriend
Christmas Eve night I answered 911 for a hysterical lady who was crying so hard she couldn’t breathe. I asked her what was going on and she told me these exact words “my boyfriend and I.. we were watching a movie.. I fell asleep. I woke up and he wasn’t here.” I thought this was a little odd so I said, “okay ma'am, do you know where he may have went?” she wasn’t done. She said, “I found him.. in our closet, he hung himself.. with our bed sheets.” I walked her through cutting him down and starting CPR. when, in the middle of it he starts making this long raspy exhale that sounds exactly like something from a horror movie, it’s the rest of his air leaving his lungs. She starts getting hysterical again begging him, “oh my god, he’s breathing, please breathe baby, please breathe..” But I knew that’s not what he was doing. Police/fire/ambulance got there and of course the guy was way dead. I felt so bad for that woman. That’s really the only call that has ever stuck with me.
8) The Hacksaw
The one that sticks with me the most was a man who was paralysed from the waist down and had phoned up to tell us that he was mid-way through attempting to amputate his own legs at the thigh using nothing but a hack-saw and a Stanley knife. He’d laid newspaper down on the floor and everything, in an attempt not to get blood on the carpet. Naturally not long into the call he passed out due to blood loss.
9) The Loaded Shotgun
I had to stay on the phone with a young man for about 40 minutes, maybe a little more, who had a very disturbed man break into his home, and with a loaded shotgun pointed at his face the entire time, demand that he call the police (he wanted a suicide by cop). This young man urinated himself, almost threw up, and was begging me to keep him alive…I haven’t dreamt about it in a long time (it was several years ago), but it stuck with me.
10) Abandoned Car
Another NYC - received an anonymous call that a Patrol Car (RMP) was parked in the middle of a street in Harlem with the doors open and no Police officer in sight. We used to get tons of prank calls but after a while your gut tells you when they’re real. They found the Officer several blocks away. He had been shot and then dragged by the perp’s car for several blocks. Terrible.
11) Responding to the Wrong Call
Two Christmases ago my uncle (who’s a police officer) was working during the day. He got to work when they got a call from an elderly woman who was having a heart attack and gave him the address. Turns out it was his own mother. He got there and tried CPR before the EMTs got there but there was nothing they could do.
12) The Hardest Calls
It’s kinda strange but stuff that sounds the most dramatic - people getting severely beaten during a call, or being shot at, admitting to a murder they committed in the last 30 seconds or even people killing themselves while they are on the phone to me… that doesn’t bother me too much. But give me a distressed elderly person and I get a lump in my throat. Combine that with any one of the above and it turns into a bit of a shit shift. We’ve all got our triggers and sometimes the least spectacular stuff can be the hardest to deal with.
13) Drinking Brothers
I once answered a call … 2 brothers were arguing over drinks and one of their girl friends or wives was over. Anyways the brothers are drinking heavily and one pulls out a Gun and shoots the other one. When I received the call im I can barely get the guys address over him screaming to send the paramedics. He keeps shouting “Where the Fuck Are THEY?!?” While I am trying to stay calm and give CPR instructions and tell him to tell the female there to stop the bleeding (Firm pressure on the wound). Furthermore medical cannot go in on scene until Police have secured the firearm. Listening to the pain in someones voice while they are screaming for help kind of haunts you. Both of them had to be around 30 years old, I couldn’t imagine killing a family member.
14) On Fire
A Female calls me screaming. She was yelling “Im Burning!” So I told her the stop drop and roll, and once the flames were out I told her to turn on the hose and put cool water on it until the paramedic got there. Once she was a little calmer I was able to learn more about what happened. So she had been drinking with her boyfriend and he got depressed and decided tonight was the night he was going to commit suicide and kill his girlfriend. So in his intoxicated state he found a gas can and started dumping it on himself and his girlfriend, and lit them both on fire. It also managed to catch the house/fence/yard on fire. Both of them survived, he got the worse of the burns. The house and fence had minimal damage.
15) The Break-In
The phone rings and there is a little girl 8-10 years old. She is Scream/Crying “Daddy is dead”. I cant calm her down at all, she keeps crying on the line, and in the back ground I can also hear 2 other small girls crying. I was watching our call logs and more and more calls are coming in the same are for Gunshots fired. What had happened is 3 guys had decided to break into a house and thought it was empty, so they rang the door bell to make sure. The dad startled them and they shot him. So the mother runs out to see what happened and she got shot as well. The guys took off leaving the 3 girls aged 8-12 to call 911. We are not allowed to disconnect a phone until Police or EMS are on scene. So my heart was breaking for a small family that had lost both parents in one sad accident, I listened to the girl for 6 Mins and 37 Seconds before Police arrived on scene. The good news is that the mother lived.
16) Last Words
My father was a 911 call taker. The worst calls he got were suicide calls where pretty much all he heard was someone immediately saying “hello, my name is John doe and I live at 123 abc Street and I’m going to kill myself.. bang” How terrible.