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"In my couple years of dispatching, I have been there for quite a few that have stuck with me. You just cannot shrug them off.
It was one pretty calm/average afternoon until I took a call from a person who begins the conversation, 'Her arm is gone... Oh, my God!' and proceeds to tell me he overheard the screams in his neighbor's yard and went to investigate finding two distraught parents holding their 2-year-old child who was just run over by a riding lawnmower. As I get my units en route, I return to my caller and proceed to do some damage control and learn two limbs were dismembered. The child ended up surviving and has prosthetics to assist in her life.
Another call that stuck with me was a call that started off as a female calling for an ambulance with her cell phone saying the male friend she was with cut himself while cooking. The address she gave my partner was out in the middle of nowhere in a hard to get part of the county that is about 20 minutes away. About 10 minutes after her original call the female calls 911 back, and I answer. She is in a panic telling me he is chasing her with the knife and that he stabbed himself in the chest. The line goes dead. Almost immediately after that, the ambulance says they are on scene but no answer at the residence. They were updated on the issue and advised to stage in their unit. I finally reconnect to the caller on a normal phone line and try to figure out where she is. She tells me she ran outside to hide. I ask her if there is a mailbox, no luck; how about the cars license plate, she gives it to, me but it comes back to the house address she gave. I have a full name for the male. Using that name, I can check our computers and find an address in the same area but across the river and about 10 minutes from town. I update the PD/EMS, and they head that way. I instruct my caller to call 911 with her cell again to try and trace her call to make sure we have the right location. She does, and I can confirm with her GPS that we have the right location. Now, I'm focused back on the male who she said is face down and a knife to his side. I ask her to move the knife away and try to roll him over. She sets the phone down on speaker, and the most shrill scream of horror can be heard followed by, 'Why? Why?' She returns to the phone now in hysterics and tells me that he slit his throat. I give her some instructions to help stop bleeding right as PD/EMS arrives. He is pronounced DOA at the hospital, and I was told he had 30 stab wounds. After detectives interview her and check with the coroner's staff, they concluded that it was self-inflicted and a suicide. For a good amount of time, I had a feeling it was a domestic disturbance, and the female killed him."
polya_olya / Shutterstock
"A former neighbor of mine was a dispatcher, and she told me two terrifying stories. First one was a kid who called in on a cell phone and was crying and sobbing uncontrollably. They tried to get out of him where he was and what the address was as well as what had happened, but they couldn't get anything useful out of him. Suddenly there's noise in the background, and he goes quiet, and then there's some scratching noise (like when you rub the mic against something). Most likely the kid hid the phone or threw it away under something. Suddenly they hear a screaming and raging adult coming into the room (or as they interpreted it) that started yelling at the kid who was now screaming at the top of his lungs. In the minutes that follow they can hear how this adult beats the living daylight out of the kid and then apparently leaves him there. The call ends in sobbing and coughing from the kid when he apparently ends the call. They don't know what happened, and couldn't triangulate the call (or whatever they do) to a near enough location to find out where this was, so as far as she knew, they never could help the kid. They apparently had a rough area to look in, but even after some expensive door-to-door knocking, nothing was found that could be related to the incident.
The second story was another kid (around 10 maybe, old enough to have a phone I suppose) that called in, also screaming hysterically about something. The call was eventually traced to a rough location, but the kid cut the call before they could get any more information out of her than the fact that someone was hurt. They re-listened on the recording of the call with the emergency listen-in team that's on standby and could eventually hear the famous signature melody of an ice-cream truck in the background of the call. They called them up, mapped out the routes for that rough area, called any cars and had them backtrack their routes to that specific time and eventually could find the poor girl that had been on the phone in a somewhat secluded area in the vicinity of a residential area. Her friend had fallen from a building (or something) and had more or less cracked his head open on the ground, and she just saw it happen there on the ground when the kid fell and smashed his face in the asphalt and died."
coka / Shutterstock
"I used to work for the relay service and had a 911 call come in. A deaf person that could speak was trying to get help after a person broke into her house. After getting the police dispatcher on the line, we realized we had a problem with our ability to communicate. The old woman had an older TTY device that required putting the phone's headset onto it for the TTY tones I would send to get picked up and translated into text for her to read. In a normal conversation, she would talk until she wanted a response and indicated that by saying, 'Go Ahead,' and then place the phone down on the TTY and read the text the tones produce. Likely in her panic, she wasn't placing the phone down, so nothing I typed to her was being relayed. The dispatcher was getting tense with me, and I was typing the same sentence over and over as fast as I could for her to keep quiet and put the phone down. We both tried desperately to advise her to stay quiet, because she was panicking loudly on the phone, and we're worried she would draw attention to herself. Sadly, she did and was shot. We couldn't get her to answer a single question about where she lived, description of the man, we couldn't advise her to safety - anything. I had to stay on the phone with the police dispatcher and literally type, 'Are you ok q' over and over for about ten minutes until we could hear sirens outside the house. Eventually, she was found, which is when I was no longer needed and told to disconnect. I will never find out if she survived, or if she bled out while I was on the phone with her. To this day, it still bothers me."
Solid Web Designs LTD / Shutterstock
"It was about 2:30 a.m. when a call came in from an elderly gentleman who lived way out in the country. He said he had just been woken up by the sound of a car crash near his house and that there was what looked to be a grass fire in the field just off the road.
I had him walk down towards the crash to see what happened and if there were any injuries. He found a car that had tried to take a curve too fast and hit an electrical box and power pole, which started the fire, which was about 30 feet in diameter and completely encircled the car.
The driver of the car was nowhere to be found. The driver's side door was ripped clean off, and the airbags were deployed, but there was no sign of anyone anywhere. I had my caller look around as best he can while staying clear of the fire.
Suddenly my caller let out this low whimper and said something like, 'Oh my God. Look at that. Oh my God,' because he sees the driver, who had been ejected and was trapped under part of the car. The victim's legs were pretty much toast, and his upper body was on fire as well, but somehow he was still conscious. There wasn't much the caller can do for the victim; besides being old, the caller had run out of the house with no shoes and just a bathrobe. No way was he going to be able to reach the driver through the flames.
By this point, I had had the paramedics and police officers en route for about five minutes. The first responding officer pulled up. Usually, I would disconnect when the officer arrived, but in this case, the guy just put his phone down without disconnecting, so I could still hear what was going on.
The officer (a former army medic, who had seen his share of messed up stuff) determined there wasn't time to wait for the fire department or any other officers. He grabbed the fire extinguisher from his car, sprayed down the victim as best he could, and somehow dislodged the guy from the wreckage and pulled him to safety, despite the victim reigniting due to the intense heat. The victim was unconscious by now, and the officer went to work trying to stabilize him until paramedics arrived, while the wildfire was still burning just feet away.
The officer suffered an injury to his back and shoulder due to the incredible effort he put into getting the guy free from under the car and dragging him away. The victim, who had been extremely inebriated at the time of the crash, would have died at the scene if the officer hadn't risked his life to pull the guy free. Instead he only ended up losing his feet. The officer was on limited duty for a week or two afterward.
Unfortunately, I found out later that the victim had gone into sepsis and died a few days after the crash, due to complications from his foot amputations. Still, the responding officer received a bravery medal given out to only 30 officers in the state every year."
ActionLive / Shutterstock
"I was the overnight dispatcher for a local ambulance crew (before centralized 911 services). I was also a member of the EMT crew, so I knew more than a bit about first aid. We took turns doing dispatch or being the crew on the truck.
I answered a call around 1 a.m., placed from a payphone at a rest area on the interstate highway (this is pre-cellphone). The caller was reporting that his father had a heart attack in the car, and by the time he'd found a phone in the middle of nowhere, was no longer responding. The caller had to walk from the car to the payphone, check what I was asking (is he breathing, do you feel a pulse, etc.) then walk back to the payphone to report the results. Over and over, every time I gave him a suggestion of something else to try.
Our ambulance was at least 20 minutes out, so nothing we could do would make any difference unless the caller was able to help somehow.
The man was in a panic, having to watch his father die in front of his eyes. He had no first aid or CPR training.
I tried to walk him through the basics of CPR, but the guy was so frantic that he was no help. I stayed on the line with him the entire time, until he told me he saw the ambulance pulling into the parking lot.
By the time our ambulance got there, there was no sense trying anything. The man had been dead for at least 30 minutes if you count the delay before we had even been called.
Probably my most disturbing experience on the ambulance crew was the time we had to do CPR or a 6-year-old victim of a fire. She'd died of smoke inhalation, so there were no burns, just a perfect, cute 6-year-old girl lying in my arms then down on the ground as I tried to bring her back to life, her grief-stricken parents watching from 20 feet away.
We tried. We tried for far longer than we had any reason to. I just didn't want to stop, because that meant I still don't like to think about that moment."
Pressmaster / Shutterstock
"I had recently certified as an operator, and a friend of mine was taking a call when I see him stand up and yell across the room to our radio folks 'Ummm, I think somebody just got shot!'
Apparently, he got a call from a female who was nonchalantly going on about how her husband was threatening to shoot her in the knees (again) and how she needed the police to come out to the house. She wasn't distressed, and after listening to the tape, she sounded like this was a 'common' occurrence in their household. At about the two-minute mark in the call, you heard a deafening noise in the background followed by hysterical screaming and the line disconnecting.
Because of what she had said on the call and the way it ended he pretty much assumed that the wife had been shot. After he yelled across the room to update the radio, he called the number back. That is when the 6-year-old answered that phone with loud sobbing going on the background.
She proceeded to say that her dad just shot himself and started asking my friend why he did that and if it was her fault. Once my buddy understood that the bad guy shot himself, he convinced the little girl to get her mom and head out the front door and go over to a neighbors house until we arrived on the scene. This one always stuck with me because of the age of that little girl and seeing that take place.
Recently I took a call where a neighbor called to say someone just kicked in a door and was armed with a weapon, moments later he heard a shot was heard. As we are responding to the scene, we got a call from a teenage girl who was sobbing and telling us that her dad just burst into their apartment and shot her mother and her mother's boyfriend in the head, killing them, right in front of her. Then he laid the weapon on the table, kissed her on the head, apologized to her, and was sitting on the couch waiting for the police to arrive."
OneSmallSquare / Shutterstock
"My most disturbing call was a murder that occurred in March of 1997. I had a father of a 15-year-old girl on the line. The daughter's boyfriend had sneaked in the window and shot the girl in the face. I tried to talk the dad into CPR; he said there was no part of her face left for the process. The boyfriend was later found dead of a self-inflicted injury to the face.
That's what they call a career-ender call. Fifteen years later, I'm still taking calls. Some of them just get to you. You have to put them out of your mind the best you can, and move on.
Dispatchers get the question a lot, 'What's the craziest call you've ever taken?' I usually have something light-hearted to tell, because most people don't want to hear the really bad ones."
milicad / Shutterstock
"I got a call from a male in their 30s. He was visiting his grandma. She usually went for a walk, but she was gone for about four hours. They found her backpack on a trail in the woods off a residential area. Along the way, the guy came upon a small pond. There he found her, floating... lifeless. He was too traumatized to get her out so I couldn't walk him through CPR over the phone. Our call center was busy that day, and I never got around to asking our crew that went out how it exactly happened.
Another one was a domestic violence call. Two brothers were physical, one of them hitting the other. One of them separates themselves and calls 911, which is when I get the call. A friend jumps in with a bottle and starts knocking the other brother in the head. Another friend pulls a knife and starts stabbing the other friend I first mentioned while I am on the phone with them.
My worst is when I received a 911 call from another dispatcher (one of my coworkers). His family member was unconscious and not breathing. A CPR calls for one of my coworkers. That was pretty disturbing.
My job is exciting. If I went back to my past job, I'd be so bored. The crazy calls are the medical ones... where they are rare, but you talk to the patient themselves, or hear them in the background... then they end up dying. It's like wow, I was the last person they talked to."
lzf / Shutterstock
"I have been a 911 dispatcher for more than 11 years. I've taken countless calls that always seem to be 'the one' you won't forget. Over time I've just learned to put them in the back of my mind. They surface once in a while. There are two calls I can remember that will always be like they just happened yesterday. When I had first started out in the industry, I took a call as a call taker, and it was a lady reporting a domestic. I could hear yelling in the background between another younger female and an adult male. The female I was speaking to said that her husband was out of control and that he was going to, 'Kill us both.' I heard a loud noise in the background like a window breaking or sliding glass door. There was a loud scream after that, and I heard a bedroom door (where my reporting party was hiding out) get kicked and a weapon discharge. The phone dropped to the floor, and I knew my reporting party had been shot. Another scream occurred, and another discharge took place. Then another. Then silence for the most part. I believe I heard agonal respirations from one of the people involved, but I wasn't sure who. By the time officers and medics arrived, it was a double murder/suicide. That call sticks with me to this day.
The second call I had was a few years later when I was dispatching for one of my larger cities, and a call came in from a neighbor reporting suspicious activity at a residence nearby. Officers arrived, and upon forcing entry, they came across one of the most gruesome crime scenes we've ever had. Officers entered the residence and found three bodies in a living room that had been disemboweled using a large edged weapon. The bodies hadn't been dead long. Officers continued to search the residence and located a male in the upstairs bedroom with a wound to the abdomen and his head. It appeared that this was another murder-suicide. There was a live victim found under a bed with her internal organs disemboweled as well. She was the sole survivor of the family. She barely lived. This call was very disturbing to everyone handling it. It turned out to be a complete homicide scene, set up to look like a murder/suicide. Rival gangs thought they killed the whole family. They didn't. This still bothers me to this day."
Mindscape studio / Shutterstock
"Worst day of work ever. I was packing up my things early and about to pass the dispatch duties off when the 911 rang. It was a Spanish guy who spoke broken English saying that someone had come into his house and shot everybody. His address was one block away from my police department. So I dispatched every squad I could get a hold of and SWAT to the residence.
At this point, I don't know if this is a hoax or not (guy sounded inebriated, and I worked in a relatively small city). The officers get to the residence, and everything looks silent. They surround and approach the house. One of the officer's checks a van in the driveway and finds a 2-year-old girl with a wound to the chest strapped in her car seat. The officers pass the girl to the medical workers and continue up to the second-story residence. Then they radio me 'six DOA.' It turns out a girl was staying at this house of a friend because she was divorcing or breaking up with the father of her three children. The guy finally snapped. He was returning the 3-year-old back to his mother. He decided to shoot his own daughter as she was strapped helplessly in her car seat. He proceeded up the stairs, shot his two twin 6-month-old baby boys, his ex-girlfriend or wife, and two other people in the house. He then turned the weapon and shot himself in the chest three times. The guy who called 911 was the homeowner. His wife was killed, but he jumped out of the window and ran to the neighbor's house where he called me (911). Since the police station was close, he walked down. He was in agony sitting in my waiting room while I sat behind a glass window and dispatched. He finally came to the window and with a helpless look in his eyes asked me if his family was dead. I couldn't lie to the guy. I told him they were. At that exact moment, some relatives walked in the front of the office and saved me (I was about to break down myself). They consoled him.
One piece of good news is that the 2-year-old girl was rushed to the hospital and was able to survive the wound. Today she lives with her grandparents. I was 21 at the time. The shooting and my 911 tape were broadcast around the world for about three days.
I am no longer a cop or dispatcher. Not because of this specific incident. Just wanted to experience different parts of life and work."