"Miracle on Second Avenue" celebrated
Ken Watts | 9/6/2013, 12:38 p.m.
DECATUR By Ken Watts
It was a shower of love, gratitude and gifts on Aug. 30 when the DeKalb School District celebrated the faculty and staff of McNair Discovery Learning Academy and first responders for their handling of an armed intruder who terrorized the school on Aug. 20.
Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond hosted the after-school rally for about 150 employees, police and firefighters in the school’s cafeteria that was decorated with red and white balloons and a “Miracle on Second Avenue” banner.
They were treated to a sumptuous meal, music from the Stephenson High marching band, gift bags loaded with goodies, and $30 gift cards.
The workers wore red-and-black T-shirts emblazoned with “We Are McNair Strong.”
Taniqua Wright, manager of the Gresham Walmart where parents were reunited with their children after gun-toting Michael Hill was arrested, arrived with $25 Walmart gift cards and bags filled with even more presents, including crystal trophies and T-shirts commemorating the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Hill, armed with an AK-47-rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition, invaded the school and fired shots at police. He was talked into surrendering by school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff, who has been on extended leave and did not attend the rally.
While parents waited more than four hours in the store parking lot to be reunited with their kids on Aug. 20, Wright provided them with free bottled water. The store also gave 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 free tickets for the chapter’s Aug. 31 jazz concert at the Porter Sanford III Center.
The school’s teachers and staff also were joined by some of the first responders – police officers, sheriff’s deputies, county marshals, fire rescue members and Georgia state troopers – who answered the emergency call from the school.
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.
“He fired his gun in front of me,” he said. “That was the first time that day that he fired his gun … 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.”
Dr. Brian Bolden, the school’s principal, said the reaction to the incident, which ended without anyone being hurt, has been overwhelming.
“I’ve gotten calls from all over the country – from high schools, middle schools and elementary schools – wanting to know more about our safety plan and how it worked in a crisis,” he said.
He said the staff did what they were trained to do – engage and keep the gunman away from children.
Bolden said it’s been a challenge juggling sudden notoriety with his everyday duties.
“After things calm down a bit, I’ll help any other school in any way possible,” he said.