Every day, 911 operators and responders take hundreds of calls to help people all around the country. Most of the time, they're able to solve issues and provide some much-needed support. But, every once in a while, a call can go sideways. When that happens, it's difficult to forget them.
911 responders on Reddit share the call they'll never forget. Content has been edited for clarity.
"My friend got a call from a very cross sounding old lady that was absolutely furious because her neighbors had stolen her plants.
When my friend asked her how she knew it was them, the woman said 'because there are holes in my yard and She planted them in her freaking garden! I’m going to go take them back, I have a shovel, and you probably won't get here in time to do anything about it!'
Thank goodness it was a slow day because my friend had to stay on the line for at least 15 minutes to convince her to wait for a cop to come by and talk to her neighbors for her."
"Someone called stating they had seen a man on a small island on the lake hours ago, but now the man was gone and his boat was still out there.
An older woman called in a half-hour later stating her husband had gone missing, and he was last seen taking his boat out on the lake sometime overnight.
The increasing tension in her voice as she noticed sheriff's deputies were already dredging the lake was something else. She was calm but clearly actively dealing with the fact her husband was likely dead. They found his body not long after I hung up with her.
Sometimes it's the people screaming that get to you, sometimes it's the quiet acceptance of a horrible truth that stays with you longer."
"I got a call where a Harley Davidson motorcycle tipped over, and the clutch lever went into a four-year-old's eye. The parent was on the line asking what to do.
Suddenly, she said, 'They're going to lift the motorcycle.'
I emphatically told her to tell them to stop and wait for rescue and EMS. The rescue ended up cutting off the clutch lever and transporting the kid to the hospital. She underwent surgery. That was 1982.
Just last year, I met the lead rescue officer and the girl herself, now fully grown. They wanted to meet the 911 operator that saved her vision."
"It was Memorial Day of 1989, and I was a firefighter at the time. Call dispatched as a 'car into a telephone pole.' When we got there, I couldn't believe the carnage. A high school student had been given a muscle car as a birthday present. The police later estimated he was going over 90 miles per hour when he hit the pole head-on.
The patient's right femur was about six inches long, his patella almost touching his pelvis. The entire long bone had compressed like an accordion. He had other multiple injures. Took us two hours to get him out of the car. The medics were pumping him so full of substances to maintain his blood pressure they started to openly worry that they might mess his kidneys up.
We finally got him out of the car (the only time I've ever seen a KED used) on a gurney and took off for the hospital. The medic had two large-bore IVs going, and had a BP cuff wrapped around one of the bags to create his own 'rapid infuser.'
The kid lived. He ended up losing the foot on the leg that was destroyed, and that leg (from what I heard months later) was more metal than flesh.
The irony was that the kid was a New York State indoor track and field state champion runner."
"I'm a former deputy. One morning, I was the early person in to take calls as the night shift was headed out and to cover what trickled in as shift change took place.
It's cold and rainy and miserable all around. I'm on my way to someone's house to talk to them about a phone scam when a call comes out to another unit who just marked on duty. He lives across the county from where this call came out. A mother has called in stating her little girl got out of the house while she was getting her ready for a bath. Her daughter is non-verbal and undressed, and mom can't find her.
Everyone that owned a radio in the county started to mark in route, last night's shift, court bailiffs, the darn Major-everyone was coming. I actually had to wait to get onto the radio to let dispatch know I was now in the area, turning onto the road.
The way this road was situated was a hairpin turn off a highway that led to a dead-end at a lake with a stretch in the middle of it going up towards the houses. As I make this right turn and am about to head up towards the residence, something catches my eye. This little girl is standing at the edge of this lake, just staring at it.
I bolt from my car, snatch her up in my coat, and start hoofing it back towards the houses. Some stranger just grabbed her and she's crying and trying to wiggle free. Mom sees me about half way and nearly tackles me as she comes in for the biggest hug probably any of us has ever experienced. The baby was cold, but safe, and unharmed.
We made sure to get mom in contact with a resource that would get her little girl a tracking bracelet and she rejoiced to learn that such a thing existed.
A couple of days later, the mom delivered flowers and a card to me at the office. I still have it, years later, and it still makes me smile."
"One of the first calls I took as a new dispatcher was an elderly man saying calmly that there was a dead body at such and such address. He said the body was already dead, and there was no need to send EMS, just the coroner. Then he hung up before I could ask anything.
Something about his tone didn’t sit right with me. I called back once, no answer. Again, no answer. I was about to give up but tried one more time. He picked up and his voice sounded gurgly. He had shot himself in the mouth and survived. He had called to make sure someone would find his body before his family came back home."
"A man called to report a male was breaking into his neighbors vehicle across the street. A few minutes into the call, the man came and started to break into the caller's vehicle. A few minutes later, the man spotted my caller and broke into his house from the window.
Spent 10 minutes listening to physical fight when I finally heard the police enter the house and say, 'there’s blood everywhere.'
Both intruder and caller died. Oh, and another 911 dispatcher had my caller's wife and kids on another line who were hiding upstairs and heard everything.
I talked a lot of people who were shot/stabbed/beaten in the final moments of their lives, but you usually get them after the situation occurred. This caller was just trying to look out for his neighbor and I spent a good 15-20 minutes bantering while waiting for officers to arrive and get the auto thief. Getting to joke around and get to know someone’s personality before they violently die hit a lot different from taking a call after violence had occurred."
"I'm an EMT for a rural, volunteer, basic life support department. We got a page early in the morning for an On-Star activation that reported a high potential for severe injuries at a two-vehicle motor vehicle accident. (At the time, I had been licensed for about three or four months, but I had been a ride-along for over a year on my department, but I digress)
We arrive at the scene to see an SUV on its side, and a four-door sedan about 20 yards down the road. When I saw it, I thought the fire department had already started using the jaws to cut the patient out. They were just setting up. It was that mangled. I get up to the car to check what I can, but there wasn't much I could see because of how much damage was done to the vehicle. While the jaws team cut the patient out, I called for a higher level provider to get to that vehicle ASAP. The patient was beyond critical and was taken by an AEMT service, but I found out later that the patient didn't make it to the hospital.
Another one was a similar morning motor vehicle accident. We were paged to a pickup vs. tanker truck with one subject ejected. We arrived at the scene and the fire chief met us at and told us to just bring a sheet. The ejected subject was dead on arrival with massive injuries to the face. We stayed to help the coroner move the victim into the van. Got home and found out that somebody posted pictures of the scene on Facebook, and one almost showed the victim's body. That infuriates me and others that responded to this day."
"Had a call where an 18-year-old took mephedrone and attacked his mother with a knife. She locked herself in the bathroom and called 999 (the UK here). We turn up and the son is completely undressed, and climbing out the window in the front door which he’d smashed. He gets taken to the ground and cuffed. Another officer and I managed to crawl through the window without cutting ourselves and find the mother inside. The place was covered in blood-smeared up the walls, and every knife from the kitchen bloodied and discarded around the house.
The adrenaline is just starting to wear off as the paramedics arrive for Mum. As they’re treating her, we go to the kitchen and find a dismembered member on the worktop. Turns out the kid had cut his own member off after his Mum locked herself in the bathroom.
I will never forget holding a body part that was not attached to somebody.
Not having to utter the words, 'Whose member is this?' 'Does he have a member,' and, 'Wait, don’t forget it!' (The ambulance almost left with him while we still had it in the house)."
"One night, as I was about to sit down for dinner, we got dispatched out for a motor vehicle crash on our main road. I tell my parents that I will be back in a bit. I got to the station and responded to the ambulance, which was all normal. Dispatch could not give us much information as police were not on scene yet. The first responding fire truck arrived on the scene, and with their voice still stuck in my head says, 'Full alert, dispatch everyone". This is when I knew it was much worse than a simple motor vehicle crash.
When we arrived at the scene, I saw a two car head-on motor vehicle crash. Vehicle one was an SUV where the driver was missing and a three-month-old baby was found crying in the back seat (uninjured). Vehicle two was a mini-van with a female driver (who was obviously deceased), a 14-year-old male front passenger with a broken leg, a 12-year-old female rear passenger (uninjured), and a 10-year-old female rear driver's side passenger with very serve injuries. The 10-year-olds face was swollen from what appeared facial fractures, her hair was drenched in blood, and she was in and out of consciousness.
We requested additional EMS and Para-medic units to respond to the scene for multiple patients. We took the 10-year-old out of the car and immediately started to prep her for Helicopter medivac. As we were placing her on the backboard with C-spine, she was throwing punches and kicks at us as she still was going in and out of consciousness. She was sent to the landing zone and sent to a Level 1 trauma center, where she made a full recovery. I saw her a few weeks later at a benefit dinner for her and her family. I didn't recognize her because she had the yellowish blonde hair I had ever seen.
Police arrived at the scene and had asked where the driver of vehicle one was, to which we had informed them that Driver 1 was not on scene when we arrived at the scene. Police located driver 1 a short time later, who was under the influence of several adult drinks. Driver one's three-month-old daughter was turned over to Child Protective Services as driver one refused to cooperate with the police. Later, the father was located and the father took the 3-month-old.
The 14-year-old front passenger was taken to the hospital and released to his father. The 12-year-old female was also picked up by their father. I was on scene for seven hours as Crime Scene arrived and took measurements to do the fatal accident investigation. Once they were done, we finally were able to cut the driver of vehicle two out of the car.
This accident motivated me to join the police force where I became a fatal accident motor vehicle crash investigator. My last class I had in my certification was taught by the investigator who investigated this crash. As he brought up the photos and the measurements, he commented that this crash was a terrible one. I made a comment that I was at this crash scene with the fire department."
"We live on a major road, the road is literally feet away from our back door. One day, a car was going too fast leaving the road and went up a short bank. The car flipped onto its roof, and slid back across the road, hitting another car and then the opposite retaining wall (away from our house). The road was quickly stopped up (major east-west link, but this is in the UK so only a lane in each direction). Cars heading in the same direction as the car that crashed were stopped, and one of the first was a medical professional (not sure of his exact job, but it was doctor/surgeon/EMT/something, he knows enough about major trauma to examine a 'client' before the ambulance/fire service/police arrive.)
We of course like good civilians who don't really have a clue how to deal with a fairly serious accident are gawping over the wall... So the doctor is on the phone to 999, and clearly the operator has a checklist of things to go through and he's talking to them. After a bit, we hear a very heated, 'Of course he's not breathing, his brain is on the road.'
The guy who died (solo occupant of the car) was an older guy who I think had had something wrong with him before he crashed (stroke/heart attack/etc). As he came round the corner, instead of straightening up and carrying on down the road, he'd carried on round the corner gone up the banking.
The car he hit was seriously wrecked and the occupant was injured, but not badly (think it was husband and wife). Nobody else injured that I recall (This was 10-15 years ago)."
"I'm a 911 call operator. I answered a call with a male on the other end, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I remember thinking at the time it sounded like he was trying to talk with a mouth full of marshmallows. All I could make out was when he would muffle 'help' loudly. He called from a cell phone so I didn’t immediately know where he was.
I sent the police to search the area based on the cell tower his call hit off of. I asked only yes/no questions because I could understand his answers and got all I could. I knew he needed aid, and was injured and not sick. Over the course of trying to get more from him, he got more and more quiet, even a few times hanging up on me but always answered when I called back. He sounded more and more desperate, and eventually, he stopped responding.
While on the phone with him, I had a coworker call his cell phone provider and got his subscriber address, and he had an alternate phone number on his account. His address was WAY outside our service area, it was unlikely he was at that address but I had the correct jurisdiction do a welfare check anyway. I called the alternate phone number and reached another male, extremely belligerent with me the entire time. I tried to explain the situation to him, and found out I was talking to my caller’s son. He refused to give me information on where his dad could be, saying he didn’t believe I was with 911. It took me telling him to hang up and calling 911 back and asking for my operator number before I could move forward. But the son didn’t call 911 back, it was the original caller's wife. So much time wasted.
But I find out from the wife that he left for work earlier that morning. I got his work address and asked what kind of vehicle he drives to work. She said she had to go check which vehicle he drove that morning, and set the phone down. A few seconds pass and I hear the wife yelling frantically. She runs back to the phone and tells me he is underneath his car in the driveway.
When he left for work that morning, he noticed an issue with his car and he decided to jack up his car and take a look under it. While under, the jack failed and the front driver side tire went down right on his head, pinning his head between the vehicle’s weight and the pavement. He was able to take his cell out of his pocket and dial 911, but I couldn’t understand him because his face was smushed under the tire. It was a frustrating call, working with his family to get his whereabouts, but thankfully it had a favorable outcome."
"Working as a law enforcement officer, I have had a lot of messed up calls, but this one always hits me differently. I responded to a family reunion in a park where their 2-year-old went missing. The family told 911 that someone in a car drove by and took the girl, gave a description of the vehicle and all.
We still were searching all the roads and also the whole park, but after a few hours, the stories and timeline of the car coming were not matching up, and it was evident that a lot of the family members had been heavily drinking and were high. Just in case, we called in scuba to search a small pond at the park. Unfortunately, the little girl was immediately found at the bottom of the pond.
The mob of the family immediately started charging and fighting all first responders and tried stealing the body. The screams and fighting were absolutely guttural and my stomach has never dropped like that. Turns out the girl and her three-year-old brother were not being watched while the family was drinking and doing substances. The little girl walked into the pond, sank into the mud, and drowned. All I can think about is how painful drowning is and how those poor kids didn’t have a chance."
"My first call of the day one morning was a woman who said her ex-boyfriend broke in with a knife. She sounded crazy at first. Then we heard him, and she started pleading. Officers were already on the way, I sent medics just in case. She was mostly talking to me, not him. I have no idea why he let her call 911. I don't think he really believed she was on the phone with us, honestly.
Next thing I know, there's a scuffle. She's not replying, but it sounds like a fight on top of the phone. I can hear him stabbing her, then the police busting in. Yelling for him to drop the knife, stop, then two shots. Cops frantically asking for medical attention
He'd stabbed her in the face and throat, then lunged for the cops. One of the officers had shot him, killing him. She was stabbed in the trachea, bleeding in, but eventually made a full recovery. They said if she had gotten help even a minute later, she'd likely have drowned in her own blood.
She is doing well now, happy and thriving, but I'm sure neither of us will forget the time she was as close as you can be to getting murdered."
"This is a story that happened five or six years ago from my dad who was a police officer for 15+ years. Dispatch received a call at about 5 pm from someone who saw a girl hanging lifeless (apparent suicide attempt) from a jungle gym in their neighbor’s backyard.
My dad got dispatched to the call and in his words, he 'freaking floored it.'
Within two minutes of the call, he was in the backyard. He got her down and was doing CPR. At this point, the mom of the girl realizes what is happening in her backyard and comes out screaming at the top of her lungs as my dad tried to get her breathing again.
Paramedics arrive quickly and get the girl on a stretcher and are loading her into the ambulance right as her dad gets home from work. The dude just casually pulls into the driveway, with no idea that his daughter is dead on the stretcher. He was so confused and when it all clicked he went berserk. The ambulance didn’t have room for the parents of this girl and that made the dad absolutely furious. So, he sucker-punched an EMT right in the face as they shut the doors and took off for the hospital. My dad got the parents in the back of his squad car and took them to the hospital to be with their daughter.
When my dad left the hospital, the doctors had determined that on the slim chance she lived she would likely be a vegetable the rest of her life. My dad never heard anything about the girl until a month later when he got this random voicemail.
On the other end, it was a little girl with a raspy voice and she said, 'Hi officer, you saved my life and I just wanted to say thank you.'
Long story short, she was on medication that had terrible suicidal tendencies as a side effect (her parents didn’t know that.) BUT she survived, did not remember anything about that day she tried to kill herself, made a full recovery, and I’m pretty sure she graduates from high school this next year. Her family and our family got close as my dad would visit her frequently after she got out of the hospital."