Were it not for Antoinette Tuff’s incredible bravery and grace under pressure, the scene at Georgia’s Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy could have turned unimaginably tragic on Tuesday.
Tuff, who works in the school’s front office, may have prevented a massacre in the compassionate way she dealt with gunman Michael Brandon Hill, as revealed in 911 tapes released Wednesday.
“Don’t feel bad, baby. My husband just left me after 33 years. I’ve got a son that’s multiple disabled It’s all going to be well,” she tells Hill on the tapes, while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher.
“We’re not going to hate you, baby. It’s a good thing that you’re giving up, so we’re not going to hate you,” she tells him. “Let’s do it before the helicopters and stuff like that come.”
Tuff calms Hill down by empathizing with him, helping him come to the realization that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone and should have gone to the hospital instead.
“It’s going to be alright, sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you, though, okay? And I’m proud of you,” she says. “That’s a good thing that you’re just giving up, and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life … You’re going to be okay.”
Tuff narrates instructions from police to Hill, who lays aside his weapons and lies down on the ground, with his hands behind his back. Only when police have him restrained does Tuff break down.
“I’m going to tell you something baby, I’ve never been so scared in all the days in my life,” she tells the 911 operator.
Beginning to weep, she exclaims, “Oh, Jesus! Oh, God!”