Is there anyone you want to send a bouquet of flowers to or buy a drink more right now than Antoinette Tuff?
As you know, earlier this week, the front office worker singlehandedly disarmed a gunman, Michael Brandon Hill, who had entered Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy with an assault rifle.
We’ve gotten, sadly, so used to hearing this kind of story have a very different ending.
Mustering a bravery that I can’t imagine having, she talking to Hill, who expressed his own difficulties with life and needing to go to a mental hospital, and opened up and told him about her struggles too. She humanized him by humanizing herself and making him feel like he wasn’t so alone. And it worked.
It’s hard not to get emotional when you read the story of how Tuff told him she loved him, told him she was proud of him for surrendering, and even offered to walk outside with him so the police wouldn’t shoot him. She confessed that she’d tried to commit suicide last year when her husband of 33 years left her last year. She developed a sense of kinship with him that whether it was simply to talk him out of shooting her and the children or because she had such tremendous empathy for someone else’s pain or a bit of both, the results were extraordinary.
Hill was clearly troubled. At 20, he already had an arrest record, and had been ordered to attend anger management classes but had not, according to CNN. He responded to Tuff’s warmth and compassion. On a day that could have had a very different outcome —and has at other schools— clearheadedness, kindness, and an insane amount of courage and self sacrifice saved the day.
More than 850 kids attend the elementary school. They all got to go home to their parents yesterday. And we have Antoinette Tuff to thank for that.
Tuff is a true protector of children, so in her honor, I found an Atlanta charity that also helps keep children safe: Georgia Center For Child Advocacy. The Atlanta-based GGCA treats physically and sexually-abused children through education, intervention, and therapy. In its 25 years, it has helped more than 7,500 children.
Aug. 22: Georgia Center for Child Advocacy
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