In August 2013, the school year just started in Georgia. A gunman entered Ronald E. McNair, an elementary school in eastern Atlanta, found the Academy of Learning, and took his AK-47. He has more than 500 bullets. The school is locked.
The gunman faced the school clerk Tuff, the front desk who happened to work in the summer. Tuff called 911, and while waiting for the rescuers to arrive, she talked to the killer Michael Brandon Hill for nearly 25 minutes, and she tried to rescue him from a deadly barrier.
She told Hill about her own weakness-divorce, suicide attempt and disabled son.
"Well, honey," she said. "However, I just want you to know that I love you and I am proud of you." Hill surrendered to the police. No one was hurt. Since then, Tuff has seen tragedies in other American schools. The large-scale Valentine's Day shooting in Parkland, Florida was the latest and most terrifying. Former student Nicolas Cruz opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people and wounding 14 others.
In the days after the Florida shooting, the debate revolved around gun control and how best to stop school violence. When students organized a rally and asked lawmakers to provide answers, President Donald Trump suggested that one answer is to arm teachers.
I found Tuff this week and am curious about the idea of the current national discussion.
Since 2013, Tuff has written a memoir, “Prepare for Purpose”, became an inspiring speaker, and initiated a tutoring program in school. I met her at the suburban office of one of her show sponsors in Atlanta. She chose to sit where she could keep her eyes outside the door. Since she confronted a gunman, she no longer felt comfortable returning to the entrance.
This is what the woman who saved the school had to say about guns, the role of teacher and sympathy. Her answer has been slightly edited and condensed.
Question: What do you think about armed teachers protecting schools?
Answer: If I had a gun on me, we would all die. Because you have to look back at the state you were in.
Before that I tried to commit suicide. My life was in an uproar. My husband just left me.
We have teachers working on the front line every day. They try to teach our children in school. They have their own behavioral problems. They train their children and tell them (they) that only if they go to school will they have a way out.
So what we are saying to them is: not only do you need to teach them, do you also need to protect them?
This is a question we must ask ourselves. Is it safe to put our educators in that position? Because they also have families. Who will protect them?
Q: After everything you have experienced, do you have a gun?
Answer: No, I have Jesus. He is a good gun to me.