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Georgia school-shooting hero meets 911 dispatcher: 'We made it!'

August 23, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Antoinette Tuff has been hailed as a hero for helping defuse a tense situation at a school in Georgia this week when a gunman entered. On Thursday night, she met with the 911 operator who stayed on the line with her.
Antoinette Tuff has been hailed as a hero for helping defuse a tense situation… (NDN )

The woman who persuaded a school gunman to surrender before anyone got hurt -- and the 911 operator who handled her dramatic call -- met for the first time Thursday night.

The joy was evident.

Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, outside Atlanta, became an instant national hero this week after she helped avert a catastrophe at her school.

A man who reportedly had a history of mental illness and violent outbursts had entered the school with an AK-47 assault rifle and about 500 rounds of ammunition.

He fired a few shots at police, but Tuff, with 911 on the line, helped relay his demands to officials and eventually took control of the situation when the man began to break down and threatened to kill himself.

“It’s going to be all right, sweetheart, I just want you to know I love you though, OK? And I’m proud of you," Tuff told the gunman as 911 dispatcher Kendra McCray listened and police closed in for the arrest. "That’s a good thing that you’re giving up, and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life."

On CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Thursday night, the pair met on the show's stage and went straight for a hug.

“We made it!” Tuff told McCray.

“We did, oh, my God,” McCray replied.

“Oh, thank you. Oh, wow, it was really a moment. Oh, I thank you," Tuff said.

McCray, the dispatcher, confessed that her hands were shaking as she took Tuff's call.

“She was very calm. And myself the same, I was terrified," McCray told CNN. "Coming on that line and hearing those gunshots, and you asking me those questions -- 'should you run?' -- my hands were shaking so bad.”

In the 911 call, neither woman had betrayed that panic as the crisis unfolded and the gunman, identified as 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill, made clear that he had come for the police, not the school's students.

McCray complimented Tuff for showing a professionalism that went above and beyond what might have been expected from a hostage in a similar situation, in which the bookkeeper relayed information to the police while calming and comforting a troubled suspect.

“She is a true hero. She missed her calling -- she should have been a counselor or something," McCray told Cooper, then turning to Tuff. "You did so great. I’ve never had a call where the caller was so calm and confident in what you were saying, and personable. It was great. You did a great job. You made my job easier, a lot easier.”

Tuff, ever gracious, deflected the praise a little.

“I can’t give a credit to even myself," Tuff replied. "That was nobody but God’s grace and mercy, because I can truly tell you I was terrified inside.”

On Friday, she received word that she was being invited to the White House.

Before the show, Tuff had also received a call from President Obama praising her for her actions. She grinned nonstop during the call as she sat in a makeup chair, CNN footage showed.

Tuff told CNN she'd like to visit Hill, whom she described as a "hurting soul" she'd like to help. Hill has been charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, terrorist threats and possession of a firearm by a felon.


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