13. The Voice of Reason
Talk about being under the gun. Antoinette Tuff mixed a little TLC laced with empathy in her impromptu strategy to diffuse a hostage situation at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy outside Atlanta. “It’s going to be all right, Sweetie,” the bookkeeper-turned-lifesaver told the suspect, Michael Brandon Hill, in the 911 call heard around the world. “I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’re just giving up, and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life.” For roughly an hour, Tuff shared the ups and downs of her life with the 20-year-old suspect, who said that he hadn’t taken medication for a mental illness. Tuff was one of three school staffers trained to deal with emergencies — but nothing quite like this. Hill was locked and loaded with an AK-47-style assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition. However, no one was injured and no one died, thanks to Tuff’s quick thinking. Tuff has started a foundation for inner-city children and is releasing a book in January: Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring True Story of How One Woman Saved an Atlanta School Under Siege.