Hero, first responders in McNair shooting honored
Ken Watts | 8/30/2013, 6:17 a.m.
DECATUR Antoinette Tuff, who talked down a gunman at McNair Discovery Learning Academy on Aug. 20, has been showered with accolades and honors for her bravery in the face of great danger.
While on a 911 call with DeKalb County during the invasion, Tuff, the school bookkeeper, persuaded Michael Hill, who was toting an AK-47 assault rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammo, to surrender.
Hill, 20, fired at least a half-dozen shots at law officers before he was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, making terroristic threats, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Since that fateful day, Tuff has been the toast of the town, receiving proclamations from U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-4th District) and the DeKalb Board of Commissioners and standing ovations from her church members and school community. Her story also has made national and international news.
During Sunday service at the Way, the Truth and the Life Christian Center on Miller Road in Decatur, Johnson declared Aug. 25 “Antoinette Tuff Day in the 4th District” and presented her with a congressional proclamation.
Johnson said the cool, calm and fast-thinking Tuff saved the community and the nation from yet another unspeakable tragedy involving innocent children.
“For her poise and composure beyond the call of duty, I say thank you to Antoinette,” he said. “DeKalb County thanks you. Georgia thanks you and a grateful nation thanks you.”
Tuff’s uncle and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Ulysses Tuff, praised her for her courage and compassion. He said she could have run for cover during the early moments of the siege when the gunman turned away to fire shots at law officers who were outside the school.
“But she stayed and finished God’s assignment, even at the risk of death,” he said. “She never said she wasn’t scared, but she connected with that young man through genuine compassion. She was able to do that because she was anchored in God.”
Her uncle, who co-pastors the church with her aunt, Deborah Tuff, said they are so very proud of her.
“We’ve always known she was special,” he said, “now the world knows.”
At its Aug. 27 meeting, the Board of Commissioners gave a standing ovation to Tuff, 911 operator Kendra McCray and other emergency responders who answered the call to the elementary school in Decatur. Commissioners also pinned medals on the responders who worked to avert tragedy.
Tuff said that fateful day started normal enough.
“But God has his own plans for your life,” she said while receiving her award at the board’s meeting.
Tuff, who has been on leave since the incident, said the staff is trying to make things as normal as possible for the children, but the reality is everybody is still terrified.
“Please remember them in your prayers when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night,” she said.
Tuff also got a Special Recognition Award on Aug. 24 from the DeKalb School District at its Academy of Educational Excellence Awards at the Evergreen Conference Center in Stone Mountain Park.
She told colleagues that her life-or-death experience shows every job category in the school system is vitally important and anyone at any time can make a difference.
“No matter what you do, you’re crucial to the lives of every single one of those babies who walk through that door every morning and they’re depending on you,” she said. “Give them your best.”