Jacque Reid goes “Inside Her Story” with Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., who is responsible for talking an armed gunman out of killing tons of innocent children and adults.
Tuff explained how her faith in God allowed her to be a hero that day, telling Reid that she asked God for his guidance, she recalls asking, ”okay, God, what are we going to do? Show me. Show me what to say, show me what to do, how to do it. And I just started saying that, and I just started asking, as I was going on, every time he would say something, I would say God, what do I do?”
Read the full powerful interview below and listen to the full interview when you click the red audio button above.
JACQUE REID …I’m going Inside Her Story with Antoinette Tuff. Good morning, Antoinette.
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Good morning to all of you all.
JACQUE REID : What was going through your mind during that entire call?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: God, please help me.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: Wow.
SYBIL WILKES : And he did.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: He really did.
SYBIL WILKES : He answered your prayer.
JACQUE REID : He really, really did. How did, how was it Antoinette, that you were, I don’t know who else was in the office at that moment, but how did it end up that you were face to face with the gunman?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Well, I was actually not, I was actually due to come to the front office earlier. My actual principal had actually just started to change the rotation and we had gotten some staff members in. And so he had me, that was my time that I was supposed to up there to relieve her. If I had been on time, the time that he actually came in, I would’ve been leaving. But I had just got in some devastating news that made me actually leave late. So that actually put me there at that time when I was there.
JACQUE REID : Did he threaten to shoot you at any time?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: No, he pulled the gun up and fired a shot right there in front of me, in the office, to allow me to know that he was not playing.
SYBIL WILKES : Like through the ceiling, the floor?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: He actually did it to the floor and raised the weapon up and everything to allow us to know this was not a joke, that he was not playing, that he was there to get it done.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: Were there other people behind you in other rooms that could see what was going on? Or was it just you and him?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: It was just me and him, the other room that’s actually attached to that room actually had a wall there and a door. So he could not actually, physically see that anyone was in that room; the teachers’ planning room.
JACQUE REID : You sounded so calm throughout, Where did that come from? Was there any training that you had if you encountered something like this at the school? Did they provide that?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Well, they actually teach us every month, we have like a tutor alert, and we have a fire alarm, so we have actually every month we have to do these trainings. And also it came from our pastor, between the two that allow me to know what did I need to do. My pastor showed us what we need to do, and to stay calm and just pray on the inside and not be scared.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: Who is your pastor?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: My pastor is Ulysses S. Tuff in Atlanta.
SYBIL WILKES: And was it something he said to you on Sunday in the sermon he delivered that carried over to your work day?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Yes. He had just started ministering on this sermon called Anchor. And so I had gotten up that Monday and also that particular day and started studying that. My pastor is a person that he says don’t just be a hearer of the word, but be a doer of the word. And so he teaches us to take what he gives us in church and, you know, study, to show our self-approval. So I started studying that actual sermon that he had given on that Sunday.
JACQUE REID : And that paid off. Now, you said that he looked like, this gunman, Michael Hill, like he was ready to kill when he came in that office. What gave you the indication that you could talk him into surrendering?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Well, really nothing gave me an indication because he was, you know, unstable, moving back and forth, he was just all over the place. And I just started praying on the inside and just asking God, you know, I just thought reading inside of myself, Proverbs 3, you know, ‘Acknowledge God in all your ways and he’ll direct your path.’
And I just started saying that, okay, Lord, where do I go now? What do I do? What do I say? I just started saying that in myself and asking him, okay, God, what are we going to do? Show me. Show me what to say, show me what to do, how to do it. And I just started saying that, and I just started asking, as I was going on, every time he would say something, I would say God, what do I do?
TOM JOYNER: …At what point did you start praying?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Well, I started, when he first came in the door, you know, I was like, okay, maybe it was a joke. I didn’t really think he was serious. But when he drew the weapon up to allow me to know and tell the other person who was in the room with me to go tell everybody that this was not a joke, I knew then that he was not playing. From the look on his face and, he didn’t actually point the weapon at me, but he made multiple gestures of the weapon to allow me to know that he was not playing.
JACQUE REID : There seemed to be a moment, Antoinette, when Michael left and went outside and started shooting at police, did you think about running? Or was there an opportunity for you to ever get away?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: There was, there was a couple of opportunities when he went outside, but he had already went out the door to where the children were. And the staff. And at one point he encountered the person that was over in the media center, looked him dead in his eyes, and drew his, had his gun up. So I knew then that if I was the one, because I wanted to, but I knew that if I ran that was going to give him an open space where all of the staff and all of the students were.
TOM JOYNER: You are amazing.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: You are amazing. A beautiful person, beautiful spiritually.
SYBIL WILKES : You are.
JACQUE REID : … and everybody thinks you’re a hero, including President Obama, I understand he called you yesterday?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Yes, he did. That was the best call.
SYBIL WILKES : What did he say?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: He just wanted me to know, him and his family was proud of me, and they thanked me for being a hero, and that they would love to get an opportunity one day to meet me.
J. ANTHONY BROWN: Yes.
SYBIL WILKES : Oh, that’s nice.
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Tom Joyner, I’ve been trying to meet you for years. My daughter was actually a HBCU student at TSU, Tennessee State.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah?
ANTOINETTE TUFF: Yeah, we’ve all talked about your cruise and everything. So it’s a pleasure to actually have you and Jacque on the line. I know Jacque I know you’re a part of Atlanta, you in Atlanta today. So I just appreciate you all calling me this morning….