911 Operators Describe The Most Unnerving Calls They've Ever Received
*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
The person on the other end of a 911 call has a truly remarkable job.
For those who don't play that professional role, we hope to never encounter the 911 call interaction. But if we do find ourselves making that call, the moment is an anomaly in our lives.
The chaos, the panic, the racing heart, and the desperation are all emotions we, ideally, don't experience on a regular basis.
But for the operator on the other end, our call is one in a long line of calls they've received all day, and all the workdays before that one.
It's difficult to imagine being embedded in those uniquely urgent, emergency moments all the time.
Some Redditors who are on the other end of that call shared their experiences on the job.
"911 dispatchers, what has been your most creepy/unnerving call?"
For a few, the most unnerving moments were the calm callers.
There was something just so eerie about how level-headed the faceless human being on the other end could be through such a desperate, tragic moment.
"I had a friend who worked as a 911 dispatcher and he always said the worst call he ever had was a ~20 year old kid who committed suicide by mixing a bunch of chemicals together in his car to produce hydrogen sulfide gas."
"He said that the most unnerving part was hearing him calmly listing off the chemicals, the type of gas produced, and the effects of hydrogen sulfide on the body (namely the almost instant death it causes at high concentrations)."
"He ended the call by providing the address of the parking lot he was in and saying that nobody should approach the vehicle without hazmat equipment."
"Apparently after that there was a whooshing sound as he dumped the last chemical into the mix, and then the line went dead silent aside for a quiet fizzing noise."
"I know that call screwed him up because he almost never talks about stuff that happens to him on the job. He quit a few months later to go into construction management, and frankly I can't blame him."
"A woman called me, saying she was going to kill herself. She was gassing herself. Gave me her name & address then said she was just going to lie down and 'go to sleep.' And stopped responding to me."
"I kept the line open, trying to get her to speak to me, and eventually heard officers forcing their way in to find her body. I guess she just wanted someone to find her body."
Before It Set In
"When I got a call from a 6 year old who got home from school and laid down to take a nap with his dad. His dad never woke up."
"The kid was so calm when calling it broke my heart."
"I ended up leaving dispatch shortly after. I was good at compartmentalizing the job for the year I was doing it, but it would've broken me in the long run."
A Horrifying Crescendo
"Suicide or homicide calls always get my hair standing on end. I've taken a few of both. It's always eerie how callers start off relatively calm then you notice them get more and more emotional and hysterical as the weight of what they've just witnessed sets in."
"I have taken calls from parents screaming at their dead child and sobbing asking why they did it. It's a creepy feeling knowing that they're standing there screaming at a dead body that's in God knows what kind of condition."
Other 911 operators were unfortunate enough to receive a call from the very last person they wanted to hear from: a loved one.
These dispatchers' unique position gave them the unexpected access to a family member or friend at their most dire moments.
No More of That
"My family member is a long time first responder, and 'retired' into doing dispatch. He heard the address (someone else was taking the call) and realized it was his daughter's house."
"He rushed over there just in time to see them wheeling her body out. Overdose."
"Five months later, he was called to his ex-wife's place because his grandson (son of the daughter who recently passed) had his door locked, lights on, but wasn't responding to his grandma."
"He broke the door down and found him deceased in bed. Overdose."
"He's very stoic after years of all sorts of traumatic situations but my heart hurts whenever I think of what all of this must have felt like. Like sand through your fingers."
Knowing the Address
"Not me, but my grandma. I was sitting in the dispatch office, (very small one only 2 dispatchers including my grandma) but she put out a dispatch that there was a gun shot from my best friends address."
"My heart sank to my stomach and broke later that day. He committed suicide."
When it Happened
"My uncle passing away. Worked as a small town dispatcher for a year or so. Had a bunch of messed up stuff happen on shift, but this call came in in the still hours of the night. Small town, so not many calls after midnight."
"I answered and recognized the name and address on caller id. Aunt was in a frenzy so didn't recognize my voice. I remained calm and got ems and fire rolling to them, but by my aunt's own words he was already blue."
"I went thru debriefing and mandated therapy for a couple other things that happened, but never really talked to anyone about this. I just try not to think about it."
"That was the call I figured out I needed to find a different job."
Finally, some simply had a front row seat to sudden tragedy.
These operators were flies on the wall when disaster struck. They never asked to witness what they witnessed, but sometimes that came with the territory.
A Holiday Tragedy
"My mom is a 911 dispatcher. Early on she said one Christmas Eve while working she got a call from an elderly lady who's husband had just collapsed(and died) from a heart attack and in the background Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas music was playing on blast."
"The lady was screaming and crying and begging for her husband to wake up but my mom could hear his gurgling in his last breathes. She doesn't listen to or watch Alvin and the chipmunks since."
What is it About Christmas?
"Christmas night. 911 call with crying child on the other end. A neighbor had run her car over her mom during a domestic."
"The mom crawled to the porch bleeding and the child saw the car coming back. I had her hide quietly in a closet with the cordless phone."
"The 10 year old child was crying and screamed that she hated Christmas. She was afraid of the police when they got there."
"I kept her on the phone until she felt safe enough to give the phone to an officer. I almost fainted after that call was over. Had nightmares for a while."
Close to Home
"Not a dispatcher but I handle radio communications for the Coast Guard. One night I was on the radio and got a call from an 11 year old kid whose boat had started to sink. He was out with his dad and 6 year old brother."
"They had been hit by another boat and his father got knocked unconscious. I remember the entire conversation up until the radio had gone underwater."
"They ended up finding his dad floating on his back alive but the two boys didn't make it. That one really fu**ed with me because my two littlest brothers were around the same age as the youngest."
Excruciating, and Imagined
"Probably the guy that called screaming that his friend abandoned him to die and that he could feel it coming because he had parasites eating him from the inside."
"He was coded a 10-96 (a caller with some mental instability) and I had to try and calm him down while the deputies approached him."
"I really hope he received the help that he needed and is doing better now."
A Dismal Day
"Another one that stays with me was the man who called in. It was the anniversary of his adult son having hanged himself. He'd now come home to find his wife had done the same. That date is always going to be a black day for him."
Looking Out for Number One
"I asked a friend this, she worked in it 20+ years and shes an absolute sweet little lady, she told me this one time a neighbor called them to say the apartment building was on fire and there were kids still inside sleeping in the neighboring apartment, but they didnt wanna bother checking the door or waking them up not to upset the parents (who were at work) all 6 kids and 2 dogs died that day."
"She expressed how people are REALLY unwilling to help someone in need when calling sometimes and it breaks her soul every time."
As It Happened
"I recently had an open line 911 call, where the person that called was the victim of a home invasion. He was smart enough to call 911 and hide the phone so we could hear everything that was going on. I heard him begging for someone to just take the money and leave, please don't kill me I'm an old man..."
"And I heard another male voice in the background swearing telling him he was going to shoot him in the face. It was the longest phone call of my life, I thought for sure I was going to hear this poor guy get murdered on the line. I was afraid to say anything because I didn't want the suspect to know or hear that the victim had called."
"Thankfully our officers got there fairly quickly, surrounded the building and caught the guy trying to go out a back window. He got arrested and the old man survived with only minor injuries from being punched several times. Apparently the suspect was super high and was a friend of a caretaker of the elderly person. The caretaker had mentioned the old man had money hidden in the house."
"I heard this story from my friends mom where she answered a call from a man who had stepped on a landmine. his mom told him to stay still and asked where the man was. The man was apparently near the entrance of a hiking trail and his location was easy to track, and during the whole time of the police arriving there, his mom kept talking but stuttering, as one wrong move would end up blowing the man apart."
"The police arrived with a bomb squad, and his mom heard an explosion. She had tears going down her face but then she heard the man talking from a distance. To this day she is unsure how the man escaped but the mine blew up. It's impossible to disarm a mine if someone is standing on it and the mine was about 50 years old at the time."
A Formative Tragedy
"When I was 9 my mom died. My brother (10.5) and I were home alone with her. Our dad had died 3 years earlier. She had a massive heart attack. My brother called 911 and they walked us through getting her off the bed and onto the floor so that my brother could attempt CPR."
"When he was ready, he gave me the phone (on speaker), and told me to turn around and face the wall so I didn't have to watch. I vividly remember sobbing to the dispatcher: PLEASE YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, THIS IS MY LAST PARENT! YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!"
"The dispatcher attended my mother's funeral and left the field right after."
"My brother is a trauma surgeon."
"I'm in nursing school."
"Very cataclysmic situation for all involved."
Again, we hope you never have to use the 911 call in your life. Nobody wants to be involved in a sudden emergency or a tragic incident.
But hopefully, if you do, an operator like one of these thoughtful, sensitive Redditors is on the other end.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.
Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again.
There is so much to learn in the world, it's impossible for one person to know absolutely everything there is to know.
But there are certain things, like common phrases and idioms, that everyone seems to use that might be a little embarrassing to not understand until later in life.
Redditor Curious-2577 asked:
"What's something you learned 'embarrassingly late' in life?"
"My sister was in her fifties when she found out the meaning of, 'You have an addictive personality.'"
"She thought after all these years of therapy that it meant that people were addicted to her personality."
"We laughed hysterically when we talked about this (in a very sad way)."
"I thought that horses had toes until I was 22. I thought the hoof was a 'horseshoe' and the toes were tucked inside."
"How did I learn how wrong I was, you ask?"
"I was walking past a cavalry museum and saw a horse statue and loudly remarked, 'It must hurt so bad when they fold a horse’s toes to put them into the shoe!'"
"Dozens of horse enthusiasts turned and looked at me with wild bewilderment in their eyes."
"The saying is, in fact, 'Nip it in the bud' and not 'Nip it in the butt.'"
"A few months ago, two of my colleagues both handed in their notice at around the same time."
"I kept reading/hearing the sentence, 'They’re both moving on to pastures new’ being thrown about the office in the weeks leading up to them leaving, and I hadn’t heard this phrase before and thought that was the name of the rival company that they were going to, like, 'Pastures New.'"
"I thought it was weird that nobody was talking about how they were both leaving for the same company."
"I was in the car with one of the two people who were leaving and said, 'So where is it that you and X are going to be working? Is it...’"
"And just before I could embarrass myself and say ‘Pastures New,' they interrupted me and said they’re not going to the same place and asked me where I had heard that."
"I think at that moment, I realized I was stupid and didn’t mention it again."
"I think I was in college when I realized that Mario and Luigi are plumbers. I thought they just went and up down these tubes just because that was the theme of the game."
"That Bonsai are not a species of tree, but a way to grow them. Any tree can be a bonsai."
Houston, We Have a Problem
"Houston is not the name of the guy astronauts talk to."
"I learned that pork and beans are not called 'cowboy beans.' I was 18 and asked a grocery store clerk to help me find the 'cowboy beans.'"
"We were looking everywhere and I was getting frustrated because I know that every store carries these beans. After a while, I picked up a pork and beans can with a picture and said, 'See, they look just like this!'"
"He said, 'You mean pork and beans?'"
"Then I realized that my mom called them that so that I would eat them."
"The look of disappointment from that grocery store clerk haunts me to this day."
"Let me tell you about how I thought you were awarded a 'Pullet Surprise.'"
Rum and Coke
"Not too late in life, but I thought my parents were making 'Roman Cokes' until I went to college."
"Which, I think is a much better name for the drink (Rum and Coke) anyway."
Oh No, Not Acoma!
"That a coma was 'A' coma. Until I was probably 19 or so, I thought it was 'acoma.'"
"I thought you fell into acoma."
It Must Have Been a One-Way Trip
"My parents were divorced the whole time and my mom was not, in fact, taking a vacation, lmao (laughing my a** off)."
"I live near the Hospital for Joint Diseases… when I was a kid, I thought was a special hospital for people who had two or more different diseases at the same time."
"Moving cross-country, driving east to west, and crossing from Idaho to Oregon, I noticed huge fields with signs for the Ore-Ida Potato company."
"So I was in my early 20s when I figured out Ore-Ida wasn’t just a brand name but was because their potatoes came from Oregon and Idaho."
"When I was really young, my sister told me she threw her guts up. So I was really afraid of vomiting my entire insides up for years."
Some of these really had us laughing as we realized the revelations some of these Redditors were having.
But when we're really honest with ourselves, we probably didn't figure out some of these until later, too.
While starting a family and having children is a goal that many people have, some do not realize that it's not easy, fun, and loving one-hundred percent of the time. Rather, it's expensive, exhausting, and hard, though it might be worth it in the end.
With this in mind, people shared what they felt were the hardest hurdles of their parenting.
Redditor ApprehensiveShock655 asked:
"What's the worst part of having a child?"
Fear of Not Doing Enough
"The constant anxiety that you’re doing enough to shape them to make good choices, a good life, be a good person and for them to have the life they deserve."
Like the Energizer Bunny
"It's incessant. It never stops. You never get a day off."
"Going from having two days per week to relax and do whatever to literally never having a moment free from responsibility."
No Break In Sight
"I’ve always wanted kids and still do, but this is the only thing that has come close to giving me pause."
"Both my siblings have young kids and I cannot get over how CONSTANT it is."
"From the second the kids wake up to when they finally shut their eyes, it’s non-stop. Then they get maybe an hour or two to themselves, which is mostly spent tidying up, etc., before the nighttime stuff starts with the baby crying, the toddler coming into bed, nightmares, etc."
"It requires years of not getting a full night's rest. You can never just go out whenever you want. No sleeping in, even on weekends because someone has to be up with them at 6 AM."
"Raising human children is an insane task."
Mom's Body After Baby and Dad Bods
"The weight gain is the worst! During the pregnancy, I gained 35 pounds. My belly has stretch marks. My boobs are all saggy."
"And it’s not even fair because my wife only gained like 15."
The Meal Planning
"Coming up with three meals to eat per day EVERY DAY stresses me out so bad."
"This sounds like such a small thing, but it really wears on you over time. You can’t just make something for yourself or something you and your spouse feel like eating: You have to constantly be thinking about if the kid is hungry and what they might be willing to eat."
Keeping Them Safe
"When people ask me this I say, 'do you know those video games where you have to escort a character to a destination without them being attacked?' That's parenting. Those missions are a pain in the a**."
Seriously, Keep Them Safe
"Having to deal with their total lack of self-preservation. They are creative and come up with all kinds of ways to try and kill themselves. Keeping ahead of the game is exhausting."
"They’re just always there. On you, behind you, in front of you, just a little speed bump impeding every task."
Letting Them Live Their Life Their Way
"Having a kid is like having a little piece of your heart running around in the world. When they're sick or get disappointed or just feel sad, it's worse than having it happen to you."
"Yet at the same time, you need to let your kids work through those things to learn to handle them. If you give into the worry and try to shield them from everything, you risk creating harmful co-dependence."
"So it's a constant struggle. But worth it!"
What Is "Sleep" Again?
"I'm only nine years in, but so far, it's been the sleep deprivation. Hands down."
And What Are These "Sick Days" You Speak Of?
"Having to take care of a sick child when you are also sick. For me that has been the most challenging part so far."
Another Full-Time Job
"It's like taking a second job that lasts 18+ years with a 24/7 schedule with no holidays or sick days."
"…And no second paycheck. It's actually like YOU are paying your second salary instead of getting one."
"The loss of freedom. I can't just... go somewhere. Even with older kids, there's so much planning and thinking and getting ready."
"I miss being able to just decide to go somewhere, and go there."
The Time Flies
"The best advice I got was from an ancient hospital security guard in an elevator. 'The days are long, the years are short, cherish them while you can.'"
"The phrase I hate is, 'You don't know it, but one day you pick your kid up for the last time.'"
There are all kinds of troubles that come from being a parent, many of which people don't necessarily think about until they already have a baby in the house.
But reassuringly, many people in the subReddit pointed out that no matter how hard some of these hurdles are to get over, it's still worth it in the end, and it goes by far too fast.
Positive emotions are high among people in the blossoming phase of relationships.
Everything seems more romanticized for people in love due to the amorous joy in their hearts–which also influences their desire to frequently get it on under the sheets–or any other daring location in the heat of the moment.
But for those who've declared "'til death do us part," devoted couples may find that they are not always on the same wavelength sexually compared to when they first met.
Curious to hear how people keep their passion alive, Redditor Rude_Phone6841 asked:
"Married people, how do you initiate sex with your partner?"
When verbally articulating isn't enough...
Let The Book Dictate When
"There is a book called 'How to Subtly Tell Your Partner You Want More Sex.' If you sleep on the right side of the bed, you can casually open it up and your spouse will see the giant printed title on the front. Sometimes, I’ll just get the book out and leave it on his side of the bed. Once he was messing with me and acting like he was oblivious to my not-so-subtle hints, so I threw the book at him. The book is effective and hilarious."
"ETA: Sadly, we haven’t found the book since we moved. Fortunately, we’ve started communicating with our words instead. Words are just as effective."
Save The Date
"I send her an outlook calendar event and if she accepts, IT'S ON."
"You know when I’m down to my socks it’s time for business."
These couples find that verbal cues are best.
Now's The Time
"Honestly when we have the time one of us usually bluntly says 'let's go have sex right f'king now before we can't' and we go do it. Lol"
Option A Or B
"I have a 2 month old and a 2 year old. Some of the best sex we had was because I said 'after 2 year old goes down and if 2month decides to sleep do you want to meet in the basement' well she decided to sleep and damn that was good."
End Of Day Reward
"We just ask each other tbh. We’ll bring it up earlier in the day so we build up the anticipation with each other throughout the day, flirt with each other, gas each other up. All that. Then when it’s finally time at the end of the day, we usually fall asleep cause we’re so tired."
"But the cycle continues the next day!"
People continued offering their wisdom.
Afternoon Hanky Panky
"The trick is to initiate sex during the day. We are both too tired at the end. Plus hanging out all day after is somehow more rewarding."
"Same goes for dates. Have sex at the beginning the date, then go enjoy your time together without any pressure."
Kids In The Equation
"This literally happened today with my wife and me. We have two toddlers so we’re extra exhausted. Earlier today we had the sexy initiation of 'hey, we both showered today, want to have sex after the babies are asleep?' 'Sure.'"
"Then when the kids were asleep, and my wife and I were getting settled into bed, she asked if I still wanted to. I said if she wants to I’m down, but I’m pretty tired and would be fine without it. She said she was also tired and could do without it. So we kissed each other good night and she went to sleep. I’m just winding down on Reddit for a few minutes before I also fall asleep."
"I know this is boring. I didn’t write this to tell an exciting story. Just to share what married life is like for me and probably the large majority of married couples, especially parents of young kids."
Shadow Puppet Technique
"Use my phones torch to shine a shadow of my member up against the bedroom wall."
"Kinda like a bat signal of sorts."
"Turn off the lights and switch on the red lamp beside the bed."
"Walk by him while taking my top off. He follows me wherever I go and it's been 30 years and counting."
Every couple is different, and usually establishing a strong communication bond makes everything else in the relationship–including sexy time–falls in line effortlessly.
I knew a couple who made a game out of foreplay and agreed that whoever got home first from getting off work at the same time got to choose the sexual position that night.
They may no longer be together, but I remember them recalling how that technique was fun for them at the beginning stage and it took the pressure off of establishing when they were going to have sex.
Don't take get too anxious about it. It's just sex, and it's fun.
There are a number of things people partake in spite of the known possible ramifications they have on their health and safety.
Up to and including smoking, bungee-jumping, recreational drug use, or simply bike riding without a helmet.
Indeed, even though they know that doing any or all of these things could possibly lead to their death, they do it anyway.
Sadly, even though many people go out of their way to avoid doing these things for that very reason, that still doesn't mean they keep themselves completely out of danger.
Sadly, there are a surprisingly large number of things that lead to an even more surprising number of deaths each year.
Frighteningly, these are things that the majority of the world's population does on an almost daily basis.
"What causes death more than people realize?"
When In Doubt, Call Your Doctor!
"Your body will become septic, in which it essentially kills itself trying to kill off whatever infection one has."- cacarrizales
"Infections that are left untreated."- raptor-99
Tread Carefully. Seriously.
"On average around 17k people a year in the US die from injuries incurred after tripping and falling."- EdithWhartonsFarts
When In Doubt, Don't Drive.
"Driving while sleepy."- latchkey_adult
The Handrail Is There For A Reason.
"20 million severe injuries each year and at least 200,000 death from consequences of the fall."
"Both my grandparents died because of a fall."- OnTheGoodSideofLife
They Happen To The Best Of Us
"Especially among the elderly, a fall can create a cascade of events that results in death, even if it seems minor at first."-AdmiralBofa
Never Rush Chewing
"Statistically the most choked on food."- SpecSanders
Never Skip A Check-Up
"High Blood Pressure."
"It sneaks up on you and you don't know about it or don't care but it's the underlying cause of so many deaths."- Fear51
Never Underestimate The Importance Of Self Care
"Your body can only handle so much of it and it’s labeled the 'silent killer' for that reason."
"With your high blood pressure and the 5 hours of sleep a night because of the stress, It will creep up on you sooner than you think."- DroppedDonut
Don't Forget To Floss!
"Untreated dental problems."
"A cavity left untreated can lead to heart attacks and strokes."- Lastalmark
"Just regular old flu."
"Many people ignore it thinking it'll go away on its own."
"Globally the number per year is usually between 300k and 500k."
"In the US it can be anywhere from 12k to 50k per year."- PhreedomPhighter
Don't Feel Ashamed If You Need A Break
"I have two family friends pass from heart attacks associated to shoveling the snow."- JD054
There Are People Who Will Help You
"Alcoholism causing liver failure and it's on the rise in the USA."- Interesting_Drop8236
"Peruse your County ME’s records."
"The amount of people who die from alcohol is astounding."- hockenduke
Sometimes, It's Just Best To Mind Your Own Business
"You watch some Hollywood blockbusters and some MMA fights and you think you can do it too."
"I've seen stories of a guy minding his own business and gets rocked on the side of his head. It disconnected his spine and he was dead before he hit the ground."
"There was another story maybe a year ago of a scuffle where a guy was stabbed in the neck and bled out to the point of being unable to stand within 10 seconds."
"Stop f*cking around, it's not worth your life."- Choiceofart
We never know when our number is up or how we'll end our days.
However, with a little bit of care and good judgment, we can at least likely avoid falling victim to all of the above.