Hero of the Week Award, August 23: Antoinette Tuff

23 Aug
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week, tragedy was averted; this week, children did not die. Credit for the peaceful resolution to a potentially devastating situation goes to one person: Antoinette Tuff.

When Michael Brandon Hill  walked into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, GA with an AK47 style rifle, anything could have happened. Fortunately, he encountered Tuff, a clerk and bookkeeper at the school. Hill said he was off his medication and wanted her to call a probation officer. She called 911 and began to quietly and calmly reassure Hill that everything could work out fine. Even as Hill fired his weapon into the floor, she kept the line open and kept talking to him. While 870 students — Pre-K to 5th Grade — were evacuated, she was a model of courage and compassion.

The 911 recordings show a woman dedicated to humanity. She shares her own struggles, telling Hill about her husband leaving her and her disabled son, making herself a real person to him in the tense moment. She offered him encouragement.

It’s going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know I love you, though, OK?… We all go through something in life…You going to be OK.

It was building relationship with words of love and support and understanding, not armed guards or concealed pistols in teachers’ desks, that helped Hill make the right decision. Even after a brief exchange of gunfire with police, he was able to hear Tuff’s message and surrender. As things came to a close, what did this heroic woman say?

We not going to hate you, baby. It’s a good thing that you’re giving up, so we’re not going to hate you.

In the face of potential violence, she expressed compassion. She allowed Hill to retain his humanity, dignity, and that human chose to seek more help rather than be another horrifying statistic.

Thank you, Antoinette Tuff, for doing all the right things. Not just calling 911 as procedure demanded, but for seeing a person in pain and doing everything you could to help. Dozens of lives may have been spared, and millions have seen the power of a caring word triumph over the threat of a weapon.  Would that we had more Antoinette Tuffs in the world that answer violence with love and compassion rather than hate and more violence. Brava, Ms. Tuff!


8 Responses to “Hero of the Week Award, August 23: Antoinette Tuff”

  1. katybrandes August 23, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Quite an incredible situation, eh? I watched the 16-minute interview footage of her interview and was amazed at her composure. It’s humbling, because I doubt I would have done the same. So many of us instantly think of retaliation as the automatic “defense,” but she used compassion instead.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 23, 2013 at 8:04 am #

      Katy, thank you for such a candid and authentic comment. Yes, let us hope Ms. Tuff inspires many to act, or react with compassion and dignity.

  2. Central Oregon Coast NOW August 23, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  3. momshieb August 23, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    She truly is an inspirational and incredible person; a true hero, in every sense of the word.
    But you know what scares me? I’m a teacher, and I’m more and more scared that schools are an increasing target for the anger of the disenfranchised. And I’m more and more scared that the public expects people like me to rise to that level of heroism. She is wonderful; the gun situation in our country is horrifying.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 23, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      It breaks my heart to hear that you are scared as a teacher and I truly understand that! We need to address the culture of violence we have and we need to take much better care of our teachers!

  4. Sara August 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Thanks so much for this, Michael. I have read the transcript of her conversation with Hill over and over again, and up against that is the barking of the police commander in the parking lot, with no supporting evidence, telling the press that, Of course he (Hill) meant to kill people. He had a gun, didn’t he?! Ms. Tuff saved Hill’s life, too. On his own, he would have gone down in a hail of bullets by the servers and protectors.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      Sara, I have to tell you that reading your comments always makes me kvell! Yes, Ms. Tuff did in fact save Hill’s life and I am so grateful to you for pointing that out!

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