We talk a lot about the “Strong Black Woman,” how she works tirelessly to “save alla our people,” giving no thought at all to her own needs. But when that same quiet strength and tactical thinking is being used to talk down a deranged gunman hell-bent on killing innocent children, all hail the SBW, all day e’rry day. Antoinette Tuff used her cunning to talk down a man packing an AK-47 at a Georgia school by sharing her troubles and telling him she loved him. Yep, that’s right.
A man slips behind someone else into a packed elementary school with an AK-47-type weapon. He goes into the office and shoots at the ground, then darts between there and outside to fire at approaching police.
So what do you do?
If you’re Antoinette Tuff, who works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just outside Atlanta, you don’t run. You talk. You divulge your personal struggles to the gunman, you tell him you love him, you even proactively offer to walk outside with him to surrender so police won’t shoot.
And then the nightmare ends — with the suspect, later identified as Michael Brandon Hill, taken into custody and no one inside or outside the Decatur school even hurt, despite the gunfire.
“Let me tell you something, babe,” Tuff tells the dispatcher at the end of the dramatic 911 call, obtained by CNN affiliate WXIA, that recounts her minutes of valor and terror. “I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life. Oh, Jesus.”
This brief outburst of emotion, moments after police entered the school Tuesday, was in stark contrast to her cool, calm demeanor as heard earlier on that 911 call.
As a go-between, she relayed his demands that police refrain from using their radios and “stop all movement,” or else the suspect would shoot. By the end — with police themselves having never directly talked to him — Tuff and the gunman were talking about where he would put his weapon, how he’d empty his pockets and where he’d lie down before authorities could get him.
On Wednesday, a day after the ordeal, DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander hailed the school employee as a “real hero.” Nearly nine months after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Tuff treated the gunman in her school — who admittedly was “not mentally stable” and had about 500 rounds of ammunition — as a person first, and a suspect second.
No one wants to think about what might have happened had she, or the shooter, acted differently.
“She was in there, she was able to talk him down,” Alexander said. “Had that not been the case, this could have certainly turned into something very, very ugly very quickly.”
Well…damn! Who else is loving that her last name is “Tuff?”