“911, what’s your emergency?” The answer to that question can be unpredictable and disturbing. You might think 911 operators have heard it all, and nothing phases them. Although, you do have to have a tough skin to handle the job, there are some calls they will never forget.
Here is a list of 29 calls that 911 operators can’t let go of.
1. First Call Is The Hardest
One of my first “real” 911 calls was a lady in her burning trailer house. She was elderly and wasn’t very mobile. She was calling from a landline. I stayed on the phone with her for 11 minutes until the line went dead as she frantically struggled to get out of her house. She never made it out and was found dead only 2 feet from the door. Every time I get a call of a house fire this flashed through my head.
2. “Weren’t Supposed To Go”
Elderly man calls 911. His wife passed away in bed next to him in the night. Per protocol, we’re to connect to ambulance. As I connect the call he whispers to her … “you weren’t supposed to go before me”. This was years ago and it still breaks my heart today.
I never talk about it.
3. I’ve Fallen
I worked as a telephone operator in the early 90s. We often got calls for 911 and had to stay on the line while we connected. One poor guy said that he was a quadriplegic and had fallen out of his chair. He had spent 8 hours pulling himself to his phone by his face.
4. I Once Had A Daughter
Some teen called because of possible burglary at her house. She was all alone. The line was cut. I call back and a male adult picks up the phone. I ask about the younger girl. He tells me that he lives alone now, but he once had a daughter…but she’s been dead for 10 years. Had to quit my job.
5. “Don’t Die Daddy…”
Back in the 1980s a young father called but collapsed before he managed to say anything. I spent the next half hour listening to his 3 year old daughter saying “don’t die Daddy, please don’t die” over and over while the call was traced and EMT dispatched.
6. Unfortunate Accident
My grandma was a 911 operator. She told the most chilling call of her career was from a father who had accidentally hit her daughter to her chest with and arrow while doing archery. My grandma said the sheer desperation in his voice was something she never forgot. The girl didn’t survive. As a father of a young daughter this gives me chills too…
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7. Overprotective Mother
My Mom worked as an operator for about two years. One of those, around Christmas, she got a phone call from a payphone made by a girl who sounded extremely young, by my mom’s guess about 5-8. The girl said that her mommy was hurt, there was a lot of blood, and she was scared. She spoke to the responding officer a few days later and he said the girl was violently raped, and had multiple cuts over her body, varying in deepness. When they found the house after a few hours of searching, the mother had multiple stab wounds, was also raped, and was very close to death. They both survived.
This was in a small town of about 2,000 people. My mom was pretty protective of us for quite a long time afterwards.
8. Dying Alone
I had a lady call me from a withheld number. I couldn’t find the exact location, and she wouldn’t give it. She said she’d taken an overdose and didn’t want to die alone. I just sat and listened whilst she slurred her words and eventually stopped.
9. All In The Family
About 5 years ago I took a child abuse call where a seven-year-old was sexually abusing his 4-year-old brother. When the 4 year old told the parents, they beat him to death. They called 911 3 days later when he was covered in ants and claimed he was just fine a few hours ago. The details still haunt me. That 7 year old had to learn that behavior somewhere.
10. No Car Left Behind
On the night shift one evening there was a guy who called in and was very upset because Chicago had long wait times for towing service. I advised to seek shelter as there was an ice storm in progress. He refused to leave his car or accept a ride to safety. I talked to him 3 more times in the next 2 hours. As the storm got worse managing volumes became more difficult and priority went to accident calls and people blocking traffic.
Around 3am I got a call from an agent who had someone on the phone who was just whimpering and mumbling. I asked her for the phone number off caller ID and it was my friend from earlier. He was so committed to waiting for a tow and not leaving his car that he was literally freezing to death. My agent was on the verge of tears and asking what to do. I took over the call and had the other supervisor contact Chicago PD. I stayed on the line until police arrived and pulled him out of the car. He lived and was fine but I have never felt more helpless than listening to someone screaming at me and speaking 100 miles a minute to being so cold they can barely form 3 words that make sense.
11. Burning Down The House
I’m not a 911 operator but work with them. One operator got a call from a couple whose home was burning down around them. There was no hope of escape and they knew it. Operator stayed on with them until the phone went dead. Their bodies were found later. Haven’t heard the recording and don’t want to.
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12. Bit By A Warthog
Me: 911 what’s your emergency?
Man:Yeah, see, my wife got herself bit by a warthog and she’s bleedin’ real bad.
Me: Ok sir, what’s your location?
Man: 305 Eucalyptus Drive
Me:Thank you sir, could you spell that for me?
Silence for about 10 seconds…
Man: Uhhh, I’ll just drag ‘er on over to Oak Street and you can pick ‘er up there.
Got a call from a pizza delivery guy who is delivering pizzas to a house in his car. He’s sitting in his car as he’s just pulled up but the house he’s been called to has been broken into and the thief is actually stealing a car from the house! the thief reverses out of the driveway and backs into the pizza delivery car, with the guy still inside, and somehow the pizza delivery car has hooked onto the tow bar of the stolen vehicle! The stolen vehicle then proceeds to take off, taking the pizza delivery car with him! He didn’t get very far before stopping and running off, with the pizza delivery guy giving chase to him.
I got a call from a 12 year old girl who had been raped (for the third or fourth time in her life), worst part was how “normal” the whole situation seemed to her.
15. Gun Shots
One was a five year old girl calling to tell the operator that she thinks her parents are dead because she heard gun shots and there was blood all over the bed.
That was heartbreaking to listen too.
16. Happy New Year
One time this guy called in on New Years eve, him and his buddies were drunk and the pizza guy came to the door. It startled them so they got the gun out they were playing around with and went to get the door, like cops or something. They were “clearing rooms” when something happened in the kitchen. The gun went off and shot the guy holding it in the head.
There were lots of screaming and crying. I was trying to find out where the gun was so officers could secure it. I asked the caller if he could to take a peek into the kitchen to try and scope out where the gun was. He took a step in the kitchen and his voice changed and it sounded like he was going to get sick or faint. His buddies brains were distributed all over the kitchen cabinets. He sounded like he was going to blow lunch, so I just told him he was doing a good job and to go back in the other room.
17. “Oh My God”
I was training and my first call was a guy screaming. He couldn’t tell me where he was and then began hyperventilating saying “Oh my god” over and over. I’ll probably never forget his raspy voice.
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18. South Tower
The worst call I’ve ever heard is the call from Kevin Cosgrove when the south tower collapsed on September 11 2001.
19. Under The Bridge
911: Where is your emergency?
Caller: I’m at the bridge on [redacted] outside of [township] and theres a body underneath it .
911: Sir, how do you know its dead?
C: It’s face down and not moving at all.
911: Ok sir, is it male or female and can you tell if its wearing clothes?
C: It’s a male and its fully dressed
911: Sir, how did you find the body? Does it seem like its been there a while?
C: I was just driving by and saw it and no it doesn’t look like its been there long.
911: Can you stay there and meet the officer?
C: Yeah, he should see my truck right on the bridge
911: Ok sir, and what is your name?
C: My name is [redacted].
911: Ok, thank you. Can you-
The call disconects.
911: Sir… Sir…
Several calls back later and still no answer. Fifteen minutes later deputies arrive on scene and find an unoccupied truck parked at the bridge. There is the body of one elderly male under the bridge who had suffered a gun shot wound to the head approximately 10 mins ago. The male had called in on himself. He had planned on taking his life and just wanted someone to find him, but did it in a way that no one would be able to talk him out of it.
20. Stay On The Line
My brother in-law got a call where a woman had her house invaded and she was hiding in the closet. She narrated hearing them walk around the house and when the men found her she screamed. He stayed on the line as they stabbed her to death. She managed to drag herself back to the phone and spoke to him about how scared she was and her love for her family. Her last thoughts were of sadness that she wouldn’t make it to her daughters graduation.
21. Can’t Live Without You
I was a dispatcher for 10 years. An elderly man called and said, “I’ve killed my wife. I’ll be in the back yard when you get here.”
Turned out that his wife was terminally ill and she wanted to die, so he shot her. Then he walked into the yard to shoot himself because he couldn’t live without her. This was both the most romantic thing and most tragic thing I’ve ever heard.
21. Save My Wife
I once was on the phone with an elderly man for 20 minutes telling him to do CPR on his dying wife. I could hear him grunting and doing the compressions. He was getting upset that help wasn’t arriving. When the first unit finally got there, they walked in and told us over the radio there was no patient. Turns out the man had dementia and his wife had stepped out to the store.
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23. “He’s Here!”
A 13-year-old girl called in a panic saying she needed the police. She had just got home from school and her father wasn’t there, but there was a note.
As I’m trying to get her to her local police, I can hear her going through the house, her foot steps going from place to place. She’s hysterical. I was just about to tell her to go outside and wait for the police when she let out a blood curdling scream.
“HE’S HERE! HE’S HERE! HES HERE!”
I found out from the police later he had hung himself in the garage. That call still bothers me 20 years later.
24. “Don’t Let Them Find Me”
A 21-year-old called me and gave me his address. He was crying a lot and through the sobs said “I’m upstairs please don’t let them find me”. Heavy crying for 20 seconds before a loud bang and a thud of his body in revolt from the gunshot to the head. I heard 15 minutes of him gasping for breath slower and slower until the police got there.
Next call was his brother calling to say he had posted a goodbye message on Facebook and he was racing home to check on him, but wanted the police to stop by just in case.
25. Suicide In Progress
I had a suicide in progress call two years ago, in which the caller gave all of his info calmly and then told me he was about to die. Without asking for anymore details, I knew how to code it. I then attempted to prolong the call by making small talk in order to give time for emergency units to arrive. After a few minutes of small talk, he said “I have to go now”, put the phone down, and shot himself twice in the chest. Luckily, units had arrived shortly after and were able to transport him to the hospital. I really don’t know what happened to him afterwards, as I work in one of the largest cities in the United States and I had to focus on the next call.
26. Close Call
I took a call where a woman from a different county called about her nephew. He threatened suicide by turning his vehicle on in a closed garage. I knew how critical this was and of the possible time delay. The unfortunate part? She didn’t know his new address in our area. I raced to run his information. It still had his old address. I tried running family members to no avail. The only way I found his new address was by Googling a few associated family members and located his step-father’s address in our area. The call went out, the officers raced to the house and found him in the garage, in his car, within seconds of death. The officer said that it it had been any longer he would’ve passed away.
27. Self Defense
I took a call from a young man fighting with his aunt’s friend. He kept telling me he was going to stab him to protect himself. Sure enough he did before help arrived. I heard everyone in the room screaming, while the two of them grunted and fought. The young man stabbed him in the jugular. Guy was pretty much dead before he hit the floor.
28. Domestic Disturbance
A few years ago I received a call from a nine year old boy, he definitely sounded nervous and scared, but that isn’t too uncommon with child callers. He gave his address and phone number without a problem, and at first would only tell me that he was hiding under his bed. The police were started right away, while I tried to get some more information from him. When I asked if his parents were there, he said they were. When I asked if I could speak to one of them, he told me no. I asked him why they couldn’t talk, and that is when I learned the details of the situation. His mother and father had been fighting, he got scared and hid under the bed, and watched from there. During the fight the father stabbed the mother to death, then the father tried to slit his own wrists.
The father survived to be arrested and given a very long prison sentence . I never heard how the kid was doing, other than being told he did have other family he would be going to live with.
That was a rough night.
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29. Crisis Center
Not 911, but I worked with a rape and abuse crisis center answering calls on the 24-hour crisis hotline for a number of years. Most calls were women who were victims of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence calling just to talk. Pretty emotional stuff most of the time. There’s one call that will always stand out to me as being very odd and disturbing.
I took a call once from a guy who said he was calling about problems with his wife. After rambling on about nothing and me reminding him a couple times that this was a crisis hotline, he finally admitted that his wife was a rape victim, and that’s what he thought was the root of all of their problems together.
I was on the phone with this guy for about an hour and a half, and I could not for the life of me follow what he was saying. After a bit though, I realized that he had stated, a number of times, things like, “Well, I mean, I’m not sure if my wife is a client there…” and “My wife’s name is _______, I’m not sure if you’d recognize it…” and I realized that this guy is trying to manipulate me into telling him whether or not his wife is a client of the crisis center. I didn’t take the bait.
He then started going into these stories about how confused he was at his wife’s “weird” behavior recently that there was apparently no basis whatsoever for. Stuff like coming over with her brother-in-law to gather her things and telling her husband she was afraid of him, and taking herself off of their shared account. And then I realize, oh, he’s trying to manipulate me into thinking she’s crazy just in case she is a client here.
Finally, as I started to try to disengage with him and end the call, he starts talking about how he and his wife still have some mutual friends that talk to both of them, and how he’s planning on getting them to give him information about where she’s staying. He also said that one of these mutual friends had agreed to pick his wife up under the guise of going out to lunch and then drive her out in the country somewhere to meet him. He was planning on meeting her there with flowers and jewelry and a wedding dress, so they could renew their wedding vows.
At that point, I’ve put 2 and 2 together and realized that this seems to be an abusive husband who is now stalking his estranged wife and is making plans to…(CONTINUED)
Trying to trick people he knows into delivering her to him. The thing I still don’t know, to this day, is whether he knew it or not, like, he honestly didn’t seem to realize that he was the “bad guy” in this situation, and that tricking his friend into driving his wife out in the middle of nowhere so he would try to force her into renewing their wedding vows was creepy and horrible. He talked like his wife was simply confused and he, as a loving husband, was only trying to help her. His voice was very soft throughout the call and just exuded self-pity with everything he said. He didn’t sound cold or calculating, and I could see why he had found so many mutual friends to help him. He honestly just seemed like this pitiful guy who was trying to help his wife who was suffering severe emotional and mental problems.
Except for the fact that his wife was a client, and the organization had records on him and the abuse his wife suffered going back years. And he was calling for the sole purpose of not only finding out what kind of dirt we might have on him if his wife was a client of ours, but also to try to plant seeds of doubt about in his wife’s story- legally, I have to make a record of every call I take, including a detailed narrative. Our records can be subpoenaed in legal trials. I was able to end the call with him without letting on that I knew or suspected anything, and immediately got in touch with higher-ups at the organization to let them know what was going on. I suspect those individuals then contacted the wife to let her in on it. The call was, to me, a testament to the fact that abusers take all forms, and are usually incredibly good at manipulating situations and people around them.