Michael Brandon Hill walked into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy with over 500 rounds of ammunition. Exactly what his intentions were, we don’t know. Antoinette Tuff is the reason why.
Without a gun in her hand, without a threatening word, without showing the fear that surely raced through her body, Antoinette Tuff disarmed the gunman without even one injury to a student or law officer.
Without a gun.
Hero is an overused word; same as the word tragedy. In this case, a tragedy of unthinkable proportions was averted by the heroic actions of a school employee who I’m pretty sure does not have “hostage negotiator” as part of her job description. But somehow Ms. Tuff saw a man in mental anguish, not a cold-blooded killer. She could have been wrong. Hill was previously arrested for making terrorist threats against his brother, allegedly writing on Facebook that he could shoot his brother in the head and not think twice about it. Hill was under a doctor’s care, but apparently off his medication the day he walked into the school.
Lucky for everyone at the school that day, Hill’s destiny collided with Antoinette Tuff’s. As she acted as a go-between with a 911 Operator and the gunman, Tuff made it personal. While listening to Hill’s words, she told him of the struggles in her life. Her marriage of over thirty years had ended, she contemplated suicide, she got through it. He told her he should have gone to the hospital instead of the school. She saw there was a man with some amount of logic still left inside, so she just talked.
That day in Decatur Georgia, 870 children went home to their families; shaken but alive. Would that have been the case if an armed security guard had been the first person to encounter Michael Hill? After the Newtown Connecticut school shooting which left 26 children and teachers dead, NRA President Wayne Lapierre said “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. “
Or a woman with a heart.
Well done Antoinette Tuff. Well done.