"1979 NYC. 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 - a woman screaming, things breaking, a man yelling, etc. The poor kid didn't know his address. We didn't have the technology for caller 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. 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 city had a high crime rate and crap technology."
"I had a woman call 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."
"I was a 911 operator in Mobile, Ala., 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 'I'm 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 needed me. I stayed on the line and listened as she cried, prayed, cursed, 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 later."
"I have been the IT guy for a law enforcement agency going on seven years. Our current 911 supervisor pulls calls off our 911 recorder, but some of the previous supervisors would not do it.
This, of course, means that I had to pull 911 calls whenever there was a big incident or a legal request came in. I would listen to the calls to make sure that we got all the correct radio traffic and of course all of the call.
The one that sticks out to me happened three years ago. I was repairing some equipment in our dispatch center when the call came in and had to pull the recordings as we all knew it would have been requested. I listened to it all happen and did my best to assist.
An 18-year-old called in hysterics and asked for an ambulance because his mom was shot. We, of course, dispatched immediately, but they were in the middle of nowhere and the closest ambulance was 30 minutes away. As the call continued, we got him to tell us what happened.
He had pulled out his hunting weapon to clean it before going hunting the next day. It was an older style bolt-action with no safety and an extremely light trigger pull. He had just pulled it out of the case and accidentally hit the bolt on the side of the table which caused the weapon to fire. The bullet hit the mom in the stomach while standing less than 30 feet away.
The father and son were both attempting to stop the bleeding and the son called 911. At first, you could faintly hear the mom in the background saying 'It's ok. You didn't mean it, baby. It's ok. I love you both.' She just repeated this over and over, the father was praying quietly, and the son was sobbing and giving us all the information as we tried to assist.
The sounds of that call will always haunt me. The son just shouted over and over near the end 'Momma. God. Momma. I'm so sorry Momma! Don't die, Momma! Momma! Please!' The mom was gone by the time the ambulance arrived.
The dispatchers were cool and collected and worked like a well-oiled machine during the whole call. When the call was over we all just sat there in silence."
"This one was probably the hardest call I've ever taken. The phone rings and there is a little girl on the phone. She is screaming 'Daddy is dead.' I can't calm her down at all, she keeps crying on the line, and in the background, I can hear two other small girls crying. I was watching our call logs and more and more calls are coming in the same area for shots fired. Three guys decided to break into a house and thought it was empty, so they rang the doorbell to make sure. The dad startled them and they shot him. So the mother ran out to see what happened and she got shot as well. The guys took off leaving the three girls aged 8 to 12 years old to call 911. We are not allowed to disconnect a phone until Police or EMS are on the 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 six minutes and 37 seconds before officers arrived on scene. The good news is that the mother lived."
"My mom was a 911 dispatcher in the early '90s in Washington. When I got older, I remember asking her about some of the calls she could recall. One, in particular, was pretty bad.
She was working one year on Halloween night, and around 10 or 11 p.m., 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 attempt 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 whose clothes got caught in the rear bumper. The two guys never knew they were dragging around a person all across town. The elderly man passed away and those pieces of clothing scattered around town was his clothing, flesh, and body parts. It still gives me chills."
"I got this call later at night probably around 11:30 p.m. A female calls me screaming. She was yelling 'I'm 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 paramedics got there. Once she was calmer, I was able to learn more about what happened. 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."
"The call that has stuck with me the most was a call for two unconscious toddler twin girls. The mom called frantically because both weren't breathing. I stayed on the phone until help arrived, but there wasn't much we could do.
The full story is that the family went to bed early in the morning. The twins woke up and got up about two hours before mom. The 8-year-old took them to her bed and covered them with a blanket, causing them to both suffocate. The disturbing part is that by the time the officers and paramedics got there, the mom had changed their clothes and rubbed baby oil on them to give them that 'life-like look.' No criminal charges filed."
"Christmas Eve night I answered a 911 call from a hysterical woman 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 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 gone?' 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. 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 dead. I felt so bad for that woman. That's the only call that has ever stuck with me."
"Answered a call at 3 a.m. from a 7-year-old girl who found mom unconscious on the couch and not breathing. The child knew her address and it was in the middle of nowhere. It would be a 25-minute response at best. I had to talk the kid through getting mom off the couch one arm and one leg at a time because she was too small to just pull her to the floor. Then we started CPR instructions. The kid did great. No neighbors and did not know a phone number for dad (divorced). We ended up getting mom breathing again just as the ambulance pulled up. I cried like a baby when that was over, I was so relieved for that child."
"I once took a call from a kidnapping victim who jumped out of a moving car in an office park. She had no idea where she was, and I couldn't get a valid location on her cell phone (this was in 2004), only the nearest cell tower. Usually, I would ask a caller in her situation to start looking in mailboxes for mail with an address on the envelope. But this was an office park with mail slots that she couldn't access.
She was running for her life while I was on the phone with her, hiding behind dumpsters and bushes while the kidnappers patrolled the office park. The terror in her voice was gut-wrenching. She had already been beaten, and she was afraid that if they found her they would kill her.
After about five minutes of this terrifying call, she was able to find a business sign on one of the windows in the complex. I frantically searched for the business address and the radio dispatcher aired the location to which at least a dozen officers responded. They found the suspect vehicle quickly, and a short foot chase ensued - K9 officer ended that in no time. The first officer to reach the caller ordered a victim's advocate because of her condition. I had to take a few minutes off after that call."
"I answered a call from a guy who was screaming about how he found a relative of his outside, bleeding from the head and laying on the ground. It was a call that was way in the boondocks, so I was going to be on the line with this guy for a while. It wasn't helping that he was freaking out and yelling at me the entire time. When I was going through questions with him about the patient's condition, he was yelling, 'HE'S BLEEDIN' FROM THE HEAD! SEND HELP!' We already had an ambulance and police and fire on the way. Suddenly during the assessment, he yells, 'HE'S NOT BREATHING!' At that point, I do my best to calm him down and guide him through CPR instructions. He did a good job and the patient started breathing again after about 300 compressions. Once that happened, I immediately went to the control bleeding protocol and asked him to get a dry, clean towel or cloth and to apply it to the wound on his head. The guy would not do it. At this point he was an emotional wreck and didn't want to leave him no matter how much I tried to talk to and reason with him. I was practically begging the guy to go get something to control the bleeding. He kept saying over and over that he didn't want to leave him. After a while, the police showed up on the scene. I asked him if they were there and he said yes. Just before I was about to hang up and let them talk to him I heard a police officer say, 'Sir, I need you step away from that weapon on the ground.'"
"My brother told me when he was an EMT, an elderly woman called in a missing person's report because she had not seen her husband in a couple of days. The police helped her search all over town and searched neighbors homes, but could not find her husband. A week later, another call came in from her neighbors stating that there were strange smells coming from the old woman's house. That's when my brother got the call. The elderly woman who had originally filed the missing person's report had fainted from shock and bumped her head but was still alive. The police were searching the house and had traced the smell to the attic. When they opened the attic(pull string from the ceiling) the body of the woman's husband fell out. He had been putting away some keepsakes and his wife had closed him in the attic on accident."
"My first day as a dispatcher, I hadn't formally entered training yet. I was in the call center, signing paperwork and taking my oath. As I was being walked through the call center, shown where my locker would be, a 911 call came in. It was a suicide. Caller essentially just said 'Hi, this is my name, I'm going to shoot myself at this location, I just want you to know so that nobody else has to find my body.' He then turned his phone off and shot himself. I was a little shaken, but knew that these were the types of calls I'd be dealing with, so I tried my best to shrug it off.
As I was driving home from orientation a few hours later, I noticed a group of people standing outside of a friend's house. He was in the Greek system at the university, and it was a rush week, so I figured it was some sort of recruitment event. About 15 minutes later, I got a phone call that my friend had shot himself. He was the suicidal caller from earlier in the day. I had to do a lot of soul-searching to determine if I could do the job, but I went back the next day and every day for the next five years."
"I don't work there anymore, but I worked nights in operator services for ten months at British Telecom (I was the employee who asks which service you need and passes your details through to the local service). We were a 24-hour center that took calls from all over the UK including Ireland.
A few spring to mind, chiefly the one call I was sure someone had died when a mother called having found her daughter unresponsive in her bed surrounded by prescriptions. The rules say you have to remain on the line in cases of extreme distress or in the case of young or old callers, in case the caller is unable to articulate and the other operator needs help/details from our system, so I had to sit and listen to the fruitless efforts of a distraught woman desperately try to resuscitate a body which had been cold and dead for hours.
Different but equally sad was the old woman who called wanting the police, saying she had been kidnapped and was being held in a strange place against her will. The number came back to a nursing home and a nurse soon came on the line apologizing saying she has dementia and keeps forgetting she had moved out of her house years ago. I still had to call the police on her behalf just in case though, since if the caller actually asks for the police you are legally obligated to connect them or pass whatever details you have on to the police anyway.
Finally and possibly worst, an awful Christmas eve where either there was some catastrophic technical fault or they messed up the staffing levels that year in that part of London, but calls were going unanswered by the emergency services in part of the city, the longest I had someone on was 45 minutes to get through to the ambulance dispatch. Standard procedure was to cycle through three different numbers for that service and neighboring ones who could respond then, inform supervisor who calls an escalation line to get the call answered. I shudder to think how many people suffered for lack of access to vital emergency aid that night."
"I was a 911 dispatcher in my small hometown. My first night on my own (without guidance from my supervisor), I had a call for a bad accident slightly out of my jurisdiction and that a group of my childhood friends was involved. I knew there had been a fatality, but I didn't know who it was, and my own speculations were scary as I waited to hear.
My job was to contact the family of one of the boys in the accident and to tell them which hospital was treating him. I knew the kid and I had to tell his mom he was in a serious accident, but I couldn't identify myself. Then she called me back when she got to the hospital that they couldn't find her son. We went back and forth several times as I tried to figure out where the disconnect of information was. Eventually, I found out they couldn't find him because he was in the morgue - he was the one who died. I felt like an idiot for telling his mom to go to the hospital, but those were my instructions, and it was the best information I had at the time.
I later made the mistake of talking to EMS who were on scene for that wreck and asking details. My friend had been entrapped while the driver was able to get out. Flames began to spread in the car, but they couldn't get my friend out. EMTs pulled on his arm, trying anything to get him out, but it was so hot his flesh just came off. And he died screaming burning to death. Probably the worst way to go and my colleagues had to stand there watching it all happen. Those images have burned themselves into my mind permanently.
I went to my friend's funeral and couldn't say a word about what I knew about the accident. People saying things like, 'He went peacefully - it was on impact.' Well, that wasn't true at all, but it was a nice sentiment to spread, and I would never correct it. I think I was probably the only person there who knew what happened, and that was both comforting and very difficult to manage.
I was haunted for a while. I didn't do anything wrong, but someone I knew and cared about died in a horrific way, and I couldn't share those details with anyone who knew him. My family and friends pumped me for information (small town), and I shared as little as possible, which was the right thing to do in all ways, but it was still hard not to be able to talk about it.
I told myself that I would never have a call worse than that, and in six years of dispatching, it was true. My first night was my worst."
"I work as a 911 dispatcher in Florida. Last week, I took a call from a woman who sounded scared, whispering into the phone, who said that there was somebody breaking into her house. This isn't the first time this type of call has come in, but it's always been a friend or a relative coming over unannounced or a mentally unstable caller thinking that a plant on a table wrapped behind a window curtain is a burglar. As such, I was gathering information but not yet convinced that it was a legit burglary.
A minute into the call, the woman says she hears a shot in the background. I don't hear anything, but note on the screen that per the caller shots have been fired. Just then I hear something close enough to the phone that it sounds like it's coming from the next room over. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Obvious shots. At this point, it hits me that, yeah, this is happening and this was either a home invasion or somebody is defending their home with force. I ended the call and passed the caller to the sheriff's office for their portion of the interrogation.
Hours later, a hospital in a neighboring county called and asked if we were looking for any shot victims. They had a drive-up without any good explanation for how it happened, and it happened to be one of our burglars. It had been a relative of my caller who came across the burglars in the house and opened fire on them, hitting one before they took off."