In July, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill of Henry County, Georgia pleaded guilty to making terrorist threats and was sentenced to anger counseling and three years of probation. According to his brother Timothy, the charge resulted from Hill pulling a gun on him and threatening to shoot him. Of course, Hill had an extensive record of mental illness, so this sudden violence came as no surprise to Tim.
Nevertheless, it was a close call. And like Timothy, many of us would likely assume that brother Michael would finally receive the psychological help he so desperately needed. After all, this incident could have turned deadly at any moment, so why take the chance of something violent happening in the future?
I wish I could say that Hill was doing well or improving—that someone had finally recognized his mental distress and addressed it accordingly—but sadly, that was not the case. I can’t say for sure what came of those anger management classes, but I do know what Hill did less than a week ago because it was all over the news.
He walked into the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school near Atlanta, and brought some items with him that should never enter a school again, especially after Newtown and all the other school tragedies in the last few years: a .762-caliber AK-47-type weapon and hundreds of rounds of ammunition—some say as many as 500!
Hill’s first and only stop, however, was at the school’s front desk. There he met a bookkeeper named Antoinette Tuff—a beautiful young woman with dimples that appear when she smiles—and that is where his misguided school attack came to an abrupt end.
No, she didn’t leap over the desk, disarm the gunman and beat him senseless with his own weapon… although that would have been cool. Instead, she applied something that most people need and that I employ almost daily: tough love.
Or for the sake of this article, Tuff love. The irony of her last name will become apparent soon, believe me.
Hill told the brave bookkeeper that he was mentally ill, was not taking his medication and should have gone to a mental hospital instead of hatching this terrible plan. He also mentioned how he didn’t care if he lived or died, which is something you obviously never want to hear from someone armed to the teeth and seemingly intent on hurting people.
If Hill did snap, odds are Tuff would be the first casualty, after all.
In what can only be described as an amazing feat of bravery, sympathy and—believe it or not—love, Tuff took a different approach in dealing with this potential threat to her life and the lives of others, most of them children. Rather than fleeing and allowing Hill to move unhindered into the school, where he could have killed countless people, she treated him like a human being. Tuff even shared some of her own personal struggles with Hill, all the while consoling him and telling him how much she cared.
“Don’t feel bad, baby,” she told him. “My husband just left me after 33 years… I’ve got a son that’s multiple disabled. It’s going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know I love you, though, okay? We all go through something in life. [You’re] going to be okay.”
Granted, her love may have been a little softer than I first described—tough love usually has more of an edge to it—but it was definitely effective. Tuff spoke to the disturbed gunman softly and kindly. And where others may have trembled in fear—unable to speak for fear of being fatally silenced—she connected with no other motive but to help.
Hill obviously picked up on this and appreciated it, because he surrendered after only 25 minutes. After placing his weapons, ammo and the contents of his pockets on the counter, he laid face-down on the floor and waited patiently for police to arrive. And Tuff made sure he knew how much it meant to her—as well as everyone in the school, whether they realized it or not.
“It’s gonna be all right, sweetheart… I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’re just giving up and don’t worry about it.”
The police arrived a short time later and apprehended Hill without incident. No one was injured and more importantly, no one was killed.
It was a good day. And where potential school shootings are concerned, good days can be very hard to come by.
Of course, Tuff later confessed to be being far less calm and cool than people likely imagined, and who could blame her?
“I’m going to tell you something, baby,” our hero told the 911 operator near the end of her call and after being praised for her courage and bravery. “I’ve never been so scared in all the days in my life. Oh, Jesus!”
I know one thing for certain: Jesus has to be proud of Antoinette Tuff. We all should be because to me, she shows us all what it really means to be human. My hat goes off to this amazing woman who on this day saved countless lives. She truly is an angel.
Posted on August 27, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged AK-47, commentary, Crime and Justice, current-events, Georgia, humanity, inspiration, Jesus, love, news, perspectives, School shooting, Tuff. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.