8 of the Most Distressing Stories from 911 Operators

911 phone operators have to deal with the darkest, most chilling and disturbing crimes on a daily basis. The horrific nature of these desperate calls for help have driven many dispatchers to quit the job altogether, while other operators say that some of their conversations have haunted them for the remainder of their lives.

One AskReddit category asked emergency dispatchers to write in and share some of their most distressing calls that they’ve ever had to deal with.

These people have listened to violent attacks, suicides and murders and more all while frantically trying to send help and save lives.

Many of the operators say that most of the time they are never debriefed at the conclusion of a call, and therefore rarely know if the person on the other end survived. They say this often leaves them feeling hopeless, helpless and empty inside, and many cannot take the emotional duress for more than a few years.

The answers are distressing to read.

“Got a call a few years ago, lady’s house was on fire, and her daughter was stuck in a back room. The flames were too much and too high, and she couldn’t get through them to get to the girl. So I got to sit on the phone and listen to A) a little girl burn to death and B) the mom scream and cry as she watched. It was 5 years ago and the sounds still haunts me.”

– Reddit User FreakInthePen

“Had a call for a brother who killed his other brother with a hammer (the pick part) while the victim’s little daughter was watching. The daughter called us from another room and told us her daddy’s eye fell out.

Perp was apprehended, daughter taken by relative. Had to smoke after that one, and I don’t even smoke.”

–Reddit User Rainbowbrite0091

“I had a woman call in who was hiding in her closet and told me her ex-boyfriend was breaking into her house. While officers were enroute 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.”

-Anonymous Reddit User

“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 – woman screaming, things breaking, man yelling, etc. […]

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. Very sad. 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.”

– Reddit User Mizcreant908

“There was a young boy about 3 trapped in his parents trailer that was on fire. We knew he was in there, the grandmother had gotten all the kids out but that one. She thought maybe he went and hid or something. The fire department did everything they could even at great personal risk but in the end the child had died of smoke inhalation. It was a painful 1-2 hours as they fought the fire and tried to save him, though after the first half hour we were pretty sure he couldn’t have survived. My son was about the same age as that boy and it hit me hard, I probably should have gotten grief counseling or something but they didn’t do that for dispatchers at the time.”

–Anonymous Reddit User

“Call early Sunday morning from a 6 year old girl saying there was a man in the backyard making a lot of noise. She said the man had her parents and they both weren’t moving. The little girl said the man knew she was in the house and he told her to call the police. She then said the man was coming inside. The phone fell to floor/ground and that was the end of the call.

Still gives me the chills. Lots of un-answered questions.”

–Reddit User Gooncraw

“There was once a very young girl who called because her mother told her to and she herself had no understanding of the emergency situation.

“Um, my mommy told me to call you.” [Shouting can be heard in the background] “She says that the bad man is a-a-” [More shouting] “A… a salt thing her?” [More yelling] “And we live at home.” [Yelling becomes more frantic] “Hour ad dress.” [Gunshot can be heard.] “Ooh! Fireworks!””

– Reddit User Dralcax

“I’m a recently hired dispatcher and heard some crazy calls while going through the academy that the instructor had personally answered.

The one call I heard that bothered me the most was from a hysterical mother locked in her vehicle that was on fire. She was so hysterical she couldn’t unlock the doors. She tells the dispatcher that she has 2 kids and you can hear them crying in the back of the car. The dispatcher is trying to calm her down but its hopeless, the mother is screaming and banging on the window trying to break it. After about 2 minutes of this the mother then calls the kids up to her and you can hear them all crying and coughing. The worst part is when you can clearly hear one of the kids (sounded about aged 4-5) say “Mommy, I’m going to die!””

– Reddit User DMAC55