McNair Academy faculty, staff celebrate “Miracle on Second Avenue.”
Ken Watts | 8/30/2013, 11:29 p.m.
DECATUR The DeKalb County School District on Aug. 30 showered the faculty and staff of McNair Discovery Learning Academy with love and gifts for their handling of the armed intruder crisis on Aug. 20 that led to the surrender of the gunman and saved the lives of more than 800 school children.
Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond hosted an after school rally for the employees in the school’s cafeteria with a sumptuous meal, balloons, the Stephenson High marching band, a 30 dollar gift card, gift bags full of goodies and a banner onstage that read “Miracle on Second Avenue.”
Workers were decked out in red and black tee-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “We are McNair Strong.”
Taniqua Wright, manager of the Walmart where McNair Academy parents were reunited with their children, arrived with $25 Walmart gift cards and bags filled with even more presents including crystal trophies and tee-shirts commemorating the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Wright pitched in on the day of the incident, offering free bottled water to hundreds of frazzled parents waiting for their children to be bused to the Walmart parking lot. The store also gave away free snacks to the kids as they arrived.
Matthew Ware, President of 100 Black men of DeKalb didn’t come to the McNair rally empty handed. He brought the staff free tickets for an Aug. 31 jazz concert at the Porter Sanford III Center.
It was a great way to head into the Labor Day holiday weekend and a chance for the employees to unwind and enjoy their special bond after a situation that could have turned tragic.
Also joining the school workers were some of the first responders who answered the emergency call from McNair Academy - DeKalb Police officers, sheriffs deputies, county marshals, fire rescue members and Georgia State Troopers.
With the party in full swing, cafeteria manager Malcolm Quillen calmly recalled with chilling detail how he found himself face to face with the intruder in the front office.
“I walked in there right after Ms. [Antoinette] Tuff had her first conversation with him and he had ordered her to call 911 and send for a reporter,” said Quillen. “He fired his gun in front of me, that was the first time that day that he fired his gun. I was there and he ordered me to leave the room. I ran out and called 911 and alerted the principal that there was a gunman in the building, and notified the other staff members so that they could go on lockdown.”
Principal Dr. Brian Bolden had drilled his staff on the district’s Safe Schools Plan repeatedly since taking the job at McNair Academy, after a stint at Stephenson High School. In training, Bolden also instructed front office personnel to verbally engage an intruder to keep him away from the children as long as possible.
Bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff connected with the gunman, and, as the world knows by now, talked him into surrendering to police without harming anyone.