It's not easy being a kid. You don't always get to understand what's happening in the world around you, and you don't get to have control over most of what goes on in your life. These two factors can come together to create some situations that are so awful for children, they remember them forever.
Here, adults who are ready to share their most traumatic childhood event share their story.
(Comments have been edited for clarity.)
I Didn’t Realize What I Was Doing
“When I was 11 years old, my father and I were out disking a field with a tractor. He was letting me steer and use the controls while riding on his lap. Being an 11-year-old boy, I did not want to ride on his lap, because I would rather sit by myself. He moved to the side after a while and let me drive on my own.
I started getting comfortable with the controls, except for the clutch. I was being cocky and was not looking behind me when I was setting the disk back down. Dad started to correct me and my mistake. I panicked and hit the cluck too fast and it jerked me forward, as well as my father off the side of the tractor, to the front of the wheel. Not knowing what was going on, I ended up running him over and killing him. Being alone in a strange field with your dead father in front of you is obviously traumatizing.
I ended up running about two miles to find the closest people around doing other farm-related things. I told them what had happened and we raced back to the accident. My grandmother was there, as well as an ambulance. I could see that they had determined he was gone.”
We Ran To Our Neighbors For Help
“When I was 5 years old, my older brother was 16. He got into an argument with my mother. I remember it got loud and he pulled the phone out of the wall when my mom tried calling my dad. Then my brother took a loaded weapon and went outside. I remember my mom stacking furniture in the hallway; at the time I thought it was to block the bullets since he was outside on that side of the house. My 10-year-old brother and I were sent running to the neighbor’s house for help. I remember running as fast as I could because I thought we were going to get shot. My brother and I pounded on their door – I can still see my brother’s face with tears streaming down and see his mouth moving, but I can’t remember what he was saying. Next, I remember the neighbors offering us a choice of peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese for lunch and regretting my choice.
My brother was arrested and sent to jail for a few months. He had shot at the state troopers (I later learned it was only birdshot). My father tells me that he was on the phone (from work) pleading with the police not to shoot or kill my brother. My next memory is preparing for him to get out of jail and return home – I wrote him a ‘roses are red’ poem and saved a cereal box prize for a gift.”
I Overheard My Father’s Horrific Plan
“I once spent a day in the emergency room with back problems when I was 17 years old. I was sent home with muscle relaxers and instructions to do nothing but lie flat on my back.
My abusive father worked nights, slept days, and knew nothing about my condition. The next day, he thought the house was empty when I heard him and his friend discussing what things he wanted ‘saved,’ which was suspicious. So I hide and listened. It turns out, they were talking about gathering things he didn’t want to lose in the fire. He was planning to burn our house down that night while my mother, sister and I slept. I freaked out.
My sister came home an hour later and packed her car to run. My mom came home and didn’t believe us until my sister said, ‘Stay here and die but we are leaving.’ My mother realized it was true and began grabbing anything she could. My dad came back from delivering his chosen ‘treasures’ to save, and a huge clash ensued. I walked out the back door and saw a knife held to my mom’s throat. I would have killed my dad if I could have. My scream caused him to remove the knife. I don’t remember much more due to the trauma of the situation and being on muscle relaxers, but I know the police showed up – and did nothing. We moved out that day. That was almost 30 years ago and, I still have nightmares.”
We Received Condolences From All Over The World
“This was back in 1984, and it’s my clearest recollection.
My dad was a small town police officer. One of his close friends was a state trooper who worked the local area, I’ll call him Ryan.
Ryan was shot during a traffic stop, and my dad was first on the scene. He watched his good friend die from a blast to the chest. The guy that shot him was chased across several counties and apprehended after a gunfight.
Ryan’s funeral was a few days later and was a major media event. Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas at the time and attended the funeral. My dad rode with three other officers from our local department as part of the funeral procession.
The funeral procession was moving along a two-lane highway. A large semi truck was coming from the opposite direction and crossed the center line. It rolled right over the police cruiser with my dad and the three other officers. They were all killed instantly.
My mom was riding in another vehicle not far behind. She saw the accident happen and immediately knew that dad’s cruiser was involved. She ran straight to him. Her description of the scene is chilling even to this day.
When the local newspaper ran a story about the accident, they included a picture of the scene. There’s a blanket covering part of the back seat because my dad’s body is still in the vehicle.
It was discovered that the semi truck driver had been drinking. He was arrested, tried, and sent to prison, but not for long.
My family received letters from all over the world after my dad died, including a personal letter from Ronald and Nancy Reagan.”
I Know I Could Have Saved Him
“When I was 3 years old, my dad was struck by a car. I was at his side but don’t remember much of the situation. At the time, my family was well off but after the accident, my father was not the same. He had been an active man, full of energy.
After the accident and all the surgeries, he was a different person because of all the pain medication. He was bedridden for several years and when he did come to, he was angry, often verbally abusing my mother. He was always very fond of me though and loved me dearly, but on rare occasions, he would lose his temper. Just like every other pain medication patient, he had his good days where we would go throw the football and watch TV together, but those were few and far between.
On March 18, 2008, he was having a good day and brought my mother, a friend, and me to a movie, out to eat, and to a sporting goods store. By this time, he was starting to feel tired, which was understandable. So my mom and I walked into the store to buy a pair of heelies (the shoes with rollerblades on the heel that were popular at the time). We purchased the shoes and headed back to the car. I showed my dad my new shoes and noticed him fading away from the pain meds. My mom asked him if it was okay to grab burgers, and he nodded his head in agreement. We pulled into the parking lot and my mom tried to wake my dad – who she believed was asleep – but had actually had a massive heart attack while sleeping and was now breathing violently. My mom then proceeded to yell at me to call 911 but I was too scared and sat there and cried for my dad until he stopped breathing.
To this day, I blame myself for his death. Growing up, I always had suicide on my mind from the guilt. After my father’s death, my family happened upon a lot of financial problems. I had substance abuse issues, and I was in and out of jail from committing various crimes. I was always sleeping on someone’s couch or a motel floor. To this day I believe I could have saved him and it haunts me still.”
They Came Spilling Out Of The Fireplace On Fire
“I was 4 years old, taking a nap with my puppy in front of our fireplace.
It was the first winter we were in that house, so it was the first time we were using the fireplace. All of the sudden, I heard a massive CRACK and a blood-curdling shriek.
That was the sound of the first one falling from the fireplace, the first flaming squirrel. It attacked. Naturally, I started freaking out because a spawn of Satan was charging a full speed right for me, but then I saw that it was actually going for my best friend, my puppy. I kicked the flaming kamikaze squirrel four feet straight into the curtain.
Then the rest started falling from the chimney. It was like a scene from ‘Lord of the Rings’ when the orcs piled down the mountain. But instead, it was 10 flaming baby squirrels charging out of the firepit. I couldn’t take them all; there were too many. So I fled. I watched from a distance as my dog grabbed these horrifying monsters and immediately dropped them due to the fact that they were on fire. Then he fled as well.
My parents made it upstairs and called the fire department. Our house was fine. Singed, but fine. I remember all of the baby squirrels running around in little circles as their flesh burnt off their bodies. I didn’t understand what I was seeing, I just knew it was terrifying. Looking back, it was one of the most disturbing things I have ever witnessed.”
My Mother Was Trying To Shoot Us
“When I was 12 years old, my mother suffered a mental break. She ranted and screamed at my brother and I while I tried to hide him. As I was trying to get him out of the house, she pulled her little .25 and tried to shoot us both. The first time she pulled the trigger, it jammed. Before she pulled it again I tackled her. I still don’t know how in the world I managed to get it away from her. I guess she wasn’t at her full strength because of the breakdown. But I still have nightmares about that, and it was 17 years ago.”
I Woke Up With A Tube Down My Throat
“When I was 5 years old, and my sister was 4, I woke up on a stretcher in the hospital. All I remember at first were these incredibly bright lights and sterile, white walls. I think I may have been strapped down, but I don’t remember. I have no idea why I didn’t put up a fight because I remember there being a tube down my throat.
Eventually, my dad randomly burst into the room. He looked terrified. Then he kept leaving and I didn’t understand why until much later when they told me they had put me and my little sister in opposite rooms.
Apparently, my heart stopped nine times. It wasn’t long until my sister and I found out that our mother had tried to overdose us on her pills. It was another two decades before I realized she didn’t have a psychotic break like I thought. She was just mad at my dad for drinking and wanted to get back at him.”
I Broke My Poor Hamster’s Neck
“When I was 5 years old, I accidentally crushed my pet hamster to death. I had my hamster out of its cage and in one of those clear plastic tubes they love to climb through. My mom and I had to leave to go somewhere and I couldn’t get him out of the tube. I tried blowing into it and shaking it, to no avail. The next logical thing in my young mind was to slam the tube against the ground. The tube would have been vertical at this point with the opening facing towards the ground. I looked away for one second, and the hamster decided to finally start climbing out. I didn’t see it, and I smashed the tube right down onto his outstretched neck, completely crushing it flat to the floor. I remember him struggling to breathe before he went into a state of shock and died shortly after. I was traumatized, and I felt like a murderer/monster for months and months after.”
I Remember Its Skull Being Flattened
“Growing up, we lived on an acreage in the country. We had a lot of stray farm cats that ultimately wound up having kittens. We took them in, giving them food and shelter in our shed. One summer day, my dad and I decided to mow the lawn. We had about 10 acres and a pond, so of course, we used riding mowers. My dad needed to back the mowers out of the shed where the kittens were playing but didn’t want to round them up before backing up. I told him to wait, so I could grab them. I had to have been about 8 years old. He told me not to worry, the kittens will run out when the mower starts. They don’t like the sound.
Well, they did run when he started it. It scared them. One went the wrong direction and then turned around to run out right as my dad was backing up. He smashed the poor kitten’s little head. It was absolutely awful. The kitten’s skull was flattened and was flopping on the ground. I screamed bloody murder and told my dad I hated him. My mother told me later he cried that day – something my father most certainly does not do. Remembering that sweet kitten getting run over so horrifically slowly still makes me sad.”
He Just Kept Laughing Hysterically
“My most traumatizing memory is definitely watching my brother almost die in front of me. It was probably 2001, which would have made me 11 years old. My younger brother was riding on the front pegs of my friend’s bike with no helmet. My so-called ‘friend’ thought it would be a great idea to slam on the brakes going down the driveway. So my brother falls straight back off the pegs and slams his head into the street with a sickening crunch. I still remember his body bouncing from the hit. He didn’t get back up. He just laid there, gasping for air.
Meanwhile, my ‘friend’ laughed hysterically and thought my brother was joking. My mother and grandmother witnessed it all and freaked out. My friend was still laughing. He didn’t stop laughing. I remember this vividly – he rode off quickly whilst continuing to laugh. I yelled at him that I was going to kill him if my brother didn’t recover. My grandmother called 911 while my mother held my brother’s spine as he convulsed in the middle of the street. There was no blood. There was no screaming. Just my brother laying limp in the middle of the street, struggling to breathe. He got whisked away to the hospital and had a nasty skull fracture. He was fine after countless hospital visits and stays, but that ‘friend’ and I never hung out again.
On a side note, all these years later, I saw on the news that the friend ended up killing his newborn and tried to murder his girlfriend. Now he’s in prison for life. Good riddance.”
She Vanished Without A Trace
“When I was about 7 years old, my first kiss was a neighbor girl from down the street. By the rules of childhood, kissing meant we were basically a couple all summer, and I guess someone told her dad or he found out somehow. She got grounded for having a boyfriend and wasn’t allowed out of their house for about three weeks. One day, thinking her sentence must’ve gone on long enough, A couple other kids and I knocked on their door, which was ajar. We peered inside but left when it became clear no one was home. A day or two later, we tried again – the same thing. The door was slightly ajar, exactly as we’d left it before. This time, we went inside, calling out for our friend or her dad, but got no answer. Everything in the house seemed normal until we got back to the bedrooms; finding all the dresser drawers pulled out and mostly empty. The father’s bedroom was a complete trainwreck. We bolted. A few days later, cops went into the house and asked around the area if anyone had seen or heard from anyone living there – no one had. I heard a rumor later that the dad was a wanted man and might not have even been her father. I still think about her sometimes and wonder if she’s okay, wherever she is.”
I Didn’t Mean To Kill It
“I was 7 years old, and my big brother (15 years old at the time) had brought home a baby duck he’d found in the pond by our house. He had put it in his bathroom sink with some water and told me to stay away from it or he’d kill me. Well, of course, I didn’t stay away. I went in there to play with it as soon as he left. I had just learned how to swim underwater, and I decided to try to teach the duck to swim underwater too by holding him under. So he drowned. I freaked out because, first, I had killed this poor duck and was heartbroken. And second, I was certain my brother was going to kill me. I hid under the bed, and he came home, found me, dragged me out, and yelled in my face that I was getting sent to Satan’s underworld. He screamed that one day soon the devil was going to reach up and grab my leg and pull me down or he was going to get me in my sleep, and there was nothing I could do. I slept with a bible for a couple of years after that, and carried it everywhere I went, thinking it might ward off the devil from getting me. I had trouble sleeping and was constantly in fear of being sent to suffer in the underworld. It was traumatic for a 7-year-old.”
My Father’s Sudden Disappearance
“When I was 4 years old, my dad went missing for nine months. I still remember the first time seeing an Ingles store a few towns over while we were out searching for him. I thought we must have traveled far since I was seeing such a big, unfamiliar store out of the car window.
The reason he left was because he had been working outside at his job, and his bipolar medication basically became ineffective due to how much sun exposure he was getting. In the days before he left, he kept saying weird things that I didn’t know what to make of at my age. Things like, ‘Stop watching ‘Lassie.’ That show is of the devil’ and ‘You can’t use your ‘Beauty and the Beast’ blanket because it hints at the number of the antichrist.’ Little me was baffled but obeyed. I now know that excessive religiosity is a warning sign to get his meds checked.
His truck was found abandoned and partially-wrecked two states away about four months after he first went missing. That was rough for my mom. Our outside cat had recently had kittens, so I used to pick them up and take them to her inside to try to help. She thought my father was dead for sure. Eventually, he was found wandering around the interstate several more states away with his jacket, wallet, and a bible piled neatly in the left lane.
He was able to sort out his medication levels and has only had a few issues with adjusting his prescriptions since then. I was traumatized for many years after, and I’d latch onto his leg for the first little bit after he got home, fearing he’d disappear again.
The worst part? He feels extremely guilty to this day. I’m always trying to tell him, ‘Dude, not your fault! So not your fault!’ This is why we need to talk about mental health more. My dad has been a model provider, father, husband, and granddad all these years, but he still carries guilt for circumstances he didn’t choose.”
He Said He Felt My Hands Push Him
“When I was in the first grade my supposed ‘best friend’ – who I knew for years and spent a lot of time hanging out with – was hit by a car right in front of my eyes.
The car sent him flying a couple of meters, but luckily my friend’s backpack took the majority of the damage, and he was fine. I mean it wasn’t great, but he didn’t suffer any serious injury. Really, if it hadn’t been for his backpack (which was destroyed) he might’ve been seriously injured or dead.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Because after the whole accident happened, my supposed best friend claimed that it was me who pushed him onto the street. He claimed that he could feel my hands pushing into his back.
I don’t know or care if his memory was messed up or if he didn’t want to admit that he was just stupid enough to run into a street with active traffic.
It was a betrayal to me that my ‘best friend,’ who I’d known since forever (since before kindergarten), could suddenly turn around and accuse me of attempted murder.”
I Bit My Tongue Clean Off
“I was in the Cub Scouts when I was 8 years old. After each meeting, we’d go outside and play manhunt until our parents picked us up. Our troop met at our church, which had a house on the premises we used for our meetings.
One night, I was trying to find a place to hide when I came across a bush. Behind the bush was a window well for the basement, and I tripped over the concrete edge. When I was little, I used to run with my tongue out, and when I tripped, I slammed my jaw down on the other side of the opening on the concrete edge. My teeth clacked together and my tongue fell right out.
I picked it up and ran to our Den Leader (one of the other kid’s mothers). All she saw was blood on my face and took me inside. She asked me what was wrong and that’s when I held my tongue up to her. She almost fainted. She called my parents and told them to get there immediately as I had clearly hurt myself. I do recall her asking me if I wanted some ice cream to help with the pain in my mouth. I tried to talk but it just came out as ‘bleh blur bleh blah.’
My mom came and got me, and took me to the hospital. They gave me pain meds, but by the time the doctor came to work on me, the medication had worn off. I remember punching the doctor in the chest when he started prodding around in my mouth. They brought in a back brace and strapped me down. They were able to re-attach my tongue, but I was unable to speak for six months. I had to re-learn how to talk. (That was probably the most peaceful time of my mother’s life.)”
My Dad Insisted On Tapping Out My Teeth
“When I was a kid, I needed to get braces. I had a few baby teeth that never came out and needed removal. My parents didn’t want to pay a $100 per tooth for some baby teeth that had no roots, so I agreed to let my dad take them out with a hammer.
Now, this is like the late ’90s. Not the ’60s. My dad wasn’t even in his 40s yet. So it’s not like he was some old-timey, frugal Great Depression survivor – he was just a little bit of a hillbilly.
Anyway, he put a pencil up against the tooth and tapped it out and it hurt so bad. The teeth weren’t loose at all. They were still secure in my gums. The first one didn’t come out all the way after the first tap. So he had to hit it multiple times.
There was still a second tooth after the first. The second one popped out pretty easily, though still painfully, then fell down my throat where I nearly choked to death on it.
What I realize now is that my dad gave me plenty of entertaining stories for my life, but also that I was an amazingly obedient child.”