When I learned about how a gunman had slipped into McNair Discovery Learning Academy and fired shots into the air, I was horrified. This was too close to home. McNair is in my neighborhood, a two minute drive from my house. I’ve visited several times to play Mystery Reader, have contributed to Career Day and conducted a Georgia STEM Day workshop with my colleague Heather Neal.
I feared for the the lives of the effervescent students that I had met. I feared for the friendly front office staff and welcoming teachers like 2nd grade teacher Ms. James. I feared for passionate principal Brian Bolden.
I was terrified for front office clerk Antoinette Tuff, the staff member who had made first contact with the gunman, now identified as 20 year old Michael Brandon Hill. At gunpoint, he told her to contact WSB-TV and the police. What happened afterward is even more astonishing. Tuff convinced Hill to lay down his arms.
In an interview on ABC affiliate WSB-TV, Tuff shared what she told Hill:
"He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” Tuff told ABC.
She told him her life story, about how her marriage fell apart after 33 years and the “roller coaster” of opening her own business.
“I told him, ‘OK, we all have situations in our lives,” she said. “It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could, too.”