The staff in the front office of grade schools rarely get recognition for their hard work, but in the midst of the horrifying shooting that happened Tuesday afternoon in Georgia, it was the school office clerk who stepped up and saved the day, and quite possibly many lives.
According to ABC News, Antoinette Tuff was among a group of other administrators at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy who were all held hostage by 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, the suspect in the shooting. Antoinette said she saw Michael enter the building and could tell right away that something was wrong. “[I saw] a young man ready to kill anybody that he could and take any lives he wanted to," she said.
Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, which he loaded in front of Antoinette, Michael told her that he knew he was going to die that day; he knew it and he was okay with it. Antoinette, on the other hand, instead of feeling angry at Michael or scared of him, said that she felt sad for him. She showed compassion, and that was enough to keep Michael in the office with her, away from the hundreds of youngsters just outside the door.
“He actually tried to go out the door where the kids was,” Antoinette said, “and I called him back and kept talking to him to keep him calm to stay inside with me. Because I knew that if he got outside, he was gonna start shooting the kids, and so I just told him to stay in there with me so the police officers or nobody would kill him.”
Antoinette then made conversation with Michael, asking him his name, opening up to him about her broken marriage and the “roller coaster” of opening her own business.
"I told him, 'OK, we all have situations in our lives. I went through a tragedy myself,'" Antoinette said. "It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could too."
She then talked Michael through putting his weapon down, emptying his pockets and backpack, and laying on the floor. She told police that he was giving himself up, and she walked him through the surrender.
During the time Michael was with Antoinette, she said he walked outside several times and shot at police officers. He told a teacher to run to the classrooms and tell everyone that this was not a joke, and he also ordered staffers to call local TV stations to request a camera crew on the scene when he started killing police. But in the end, he was safely apprehended, no one was injured, and every child in the school was accounted for.
Whether she would like to admit it or not, Antoinette Tuff is a hero. She risked her own life by talking to a man who intended to hurt many innocent men, women, and children that day, and she calmed him down and helped him surrender safely. Without her guidance, and without anyone who said they cared for him, an even worse tragedy could have struck yesterday.
We would like to thank Antoinette for her infallible bravery.