I can’t imagine the stress of working in emergency response. I have a borderline panic attack every time someone leaves me a voicemail, so having a person call needing me to help save their life seems like a bit much. A Reddit thread asked current and former 911 operators to share the one call that has always stuck with them and they’ll never forget. Here are some of the ones that stood out the most.
The one that sticks with me the most was a man who was paralyzed 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
My father was a 911 operator in the early 80s and used to tell us about some of the crazy calls he received. The one that made him decide to quit and go back to school was when he received a call from a man who had just murdered his wife. My father told me that the most chilling part was the man’s calm demeanor. He complied with my father and gave him a name along with the address then shot himself in the head over the phone. My father says that the sound of the gun going off still gives him nightmares.
The single worst call I’ve ever taken 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.
4. Domestic Abuse
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 en route 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.
5. A Disturbed Man
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.
6. Horrible Accident
My mom was working one year on Halloween night and around 10 or 11pm she had a call come in that a couple guys were driving around town with a dummy or something dragging behind their truck. The dummy was falling apart and pieces of clothing/plastic were being torn off and scattered around the city. Being Halloween, it seemed like a prank but she had a patrol car try to find and stop the truck. As time goes by more and more people started to call in about it. Eventually the patrol car caught up with the truck and it turns out that it was a person. The guys had gone to a store earlier and when they left, they had backed their truck into an elderly man who’s clothes got caught in the rear bumper or whatnot. The two guys never even knew that they were dragging around another human being all across town, for miles. The elderly man had passed away and those pieces of clothing scattered around town, was his clothing, flesh, and body parts.
Had a call for a brother who killed his other brother with a hammer while the victim’s little daughter was watching. The daughter called us from another room and told us her daddy’s eye fell out. The perp was apprehended, daughter taken by relative. Had to smoke after that one, and I don’t even smoke.
8. The Pig
My sister got a call from a woman whose son was out in the yard playing football. He threw the ball over a fence and jumped over the fence to retrieve it. Everything went normal there, but when he landed in the neighbors yard, the guy was on his back porch having sex with a pig. When the cops came, he said he does it because his wife is a crack whore and he doesn’t want to get AIDS.
A boy, approximately 16, called because he was bleeding profusely. He was upset with his sexuality so he tried to cut his penis off with a scissors. He couldn’t cut completely through so he called 911. After a lot of talking and EMS was on the way he decided to try again. I heard the blades cut and heard him collapse to the floor. When EMS got there his penis was only connected by a thread of flesh.
I once got a call from a sobbing teenage boy. Turns out his twin brother slipped on some ice on stone stairs and hit his head pretty hard at the bottom. I had to stay on the phone with the kid and attempt to keep him calm while paramedics were on their way. His twin brother died a couple days later in the critical care unit. This one hit me really hard because I have a twin brother myself. I took the next week off work to spend time with him.
I 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.
I was a 911 call-taker/dispatcher in Portland, OR and received a call from a strung out girl. Story was she said her boyfriend had been doing meth for three days and owned a lab. She was screaming that he had wiggly, purple worms in his arms and there was blood everywhere. Turned out that they were his veins. He was literally out of his gourd on crystal meth, and tearing at his flesh and ripping out his veins! I did not want to live my life on their night shift taking calls like that so it wasn’t long before I switched professions.
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.
I used to be a dispatcher. I had a guy call from a landline (so the address popped up) and say, “I got them both.” Wouldn’t answer my questions just kept repeating that. So I said alright we have someone on the way. Turned out he killed his mom and step dad. Nearly decapitated them both. He had serious mental problems. I think he was found not mentally able to stand trial and was put in a psychiatric facility.
I wasn’t the call taker, but I dispatched a call in which a young man was watching his mentally disturbed mother stab his grandmother to death. He was so traumatized, it was incredibly difficult for my partner to get any information from him, but she did a great job.
My sister and her husband are both dispatchers in SLC. Between the two of them (25 years in the business) I’ve heard a lot of stories. But the worst was when my sister took a call from a hysterical woman whose husband had rolled over on their two-month-old baby sleeping in their bed and smothered him.
17. Bizarre Twist
Before the story, I’ll start by saying that I was surprised that the movie “The Call” didn’t COMPLETELY bastardize our jobs. Much of it was actually pretty accurate to what a dispatcher/call taker deals with, except for when she goes all rogue and hunts the guy down herself.
Mine wasn’t so much the phone call as much as it was the result. I can’t go into details at this time but it was basically a woman that asked for police, fire, everything we had. She needed help and feared for her life.
No further information was given. Upon arrival she had a gun pointed at my officers. She was killed.