God Used Me to Stop a School Shooter
The morning I read over the transcript from my interview with Antoinette Tuff—the woman who famously talked down a would-be school shooter in Atlanta—I got an email from my kids' school. The schools had been placed on "soft" lockdown. A bank just half a block from the elementary school had been robbed, and the suspect was on the loose. By police order, no one would be allowed to leave or enter the school building, and kids would stay in their locked classrooms while class continued.
Journalistic integrity aside, I began my conversation with Tuff by thanking her on behalf of parents everywhere for doing what she did. I had told her that she was the person we all hope and pray will be in our schools, ready to step in and save our kids. As I tried to ward of the sense of panic of having my own kids under lockdown, I don't regret what I said, professional or not. Antoinette Tuff—along with the teachers and administrators trained to protect our kids at schools—are heroes, deserving our thanks.
Because what Antoinette did was heroism. On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, when Michael Hill stormed into the front office at McNair Academy in Decatur, Georgia, with a loaded AK-47 in his hands, Tuff—a school bookkeeper—watched in fear as he aimed then fired the gun. Alone in a room with the intruder, a young man with "a demon inside him…there to steal, kill, and destroy," she talked to a 911 dispatcher and spoke lovingly to "death itself."
During the call, you can hear her tell Hill, "It's going to be all right… I just want you to know I love you, OK?...We all go through something in life." Tuff ultimately convinced him to put down his weapon—without ever shooting at a child—and surrender to police.
Tuff doesn't see herself as a hero, though. In Prepared for a Purpose, she writes: "All I did was serve as God's vessel. There is nothing special that enabled me to be a vessel for God… The story of the standoff at McNair Academy is not a story about heroism. It is a story about being a vessel for God's noble use."
A use we spoke about just after I thanked her.
One of the most interesting things to emerge from your book is that not long before you had your life threatened by Michael Hill, you were actually tempted to take your own life.
A year before this incident, my whole world came crashing down when my husband of 33 years left me for another woman. Just a year ago—six months before Michael Hill—I was so suicidal that his coming in that school and taking my life would've been okay for me. I wouldn't have had the strength to talk him down—or myself.
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