By Linda Grupp Boutin
In the midst of drums of war pounding in Syria, celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and the fuss over one 20-year-old dancing at the MTV Music Awards, did you miss the story of Antoinette Tuff last week? If so, you missed hearing about an unexpected heroine demonstrating how to save lives while solving a small part of the problem of misuse of guns in America.
She started her week following her normal routine. And despite personal problems in her life, she showed up to work as a school bookkeeper at an elementary school in Georgia. Little did she anticipate what the work week would bring. Because by Friday, she found herself sitting across from Anderson Cooper on CNN being interviewed and introduced to the 911 operator who helped keep her calm while she faced the unexpected challenge of a mentally unstable man with an AK-47 and almost 500 rounds of ammunition standing in the school office.
Usually Antoinette would have been in her busy at her desk on a Tuesday morning, but had been diverted to take a phone call before settling down to her usual work at the school. She shared with Anderson Cooper that she had received bad news, but not the exact nature of the problem she had learned about on the call. The next thing she knew she was calling 911 while talking to Michael Hill holding the gun and telling her he didn't care if he lived or not.
What would you do if faced with such a situation at work? Turns out Antoinette had training in handling crisis situations. After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook last December combined with shootings at schools for far too many years, administrators have realized their employees needed some preparations. But it turns out, according to what she shared in her interview, that she also had learned some critical skills on Sundays and Wednesdays from her pastor at church.
Through her fears and despite her own problems, Antoinette saw the hurting human inside the gunman. She spoke to him respectfully calling him "Sir" and finding their common cord of humanity. She relayed his instructions and requests to the 911 operator who sent the messages to the police surrounding the school. After some more talking, Michael placed his weapon down, set the bullets aside, took a drink of water, and laid on the floor to surrender to the police.
Although he had shot some rounds off, not one person died or was wounded on the scary morning at the school. Antoinette's coworkers warned the teachers to lock the doors and protect the children, but the gunman never got near the classrooms. A calm and understanding woman talked Michael Hill into turning himself in and every parent of each child and the loved ones of the workers at the school were able to hug their family members thanks to a very special woman named Antoinette Tuff.
As the police prepared to come in and arrest the gunman, she took the time to tell him that she was proud of him for not hurting anyone. She also told him that she loved him and that we all have problems in life and that he could get through his problems too. She encouraged him and acknowledged his pain and found the words to disarm the armed man thereby saving countless lives.
Goodness won out last Thursday morning at a school in Georgia. And though this week's news challenges us to see the goodness in life, let's celebrate together an unexpected heroine who provides for us the role model for a Christian putting their faith into action and walking in the footsteps of Jesus.