President Obama called Antoinette Tuff on Thursday to thank her for preventing a massacre at a Dekalb County, Georgia school this week. Tuff, a bookkeeper at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy Elementary School, talked to gunman Brandon Hill for over an hour in the school's officies, all while Hill carried — and loaded — the AK-47 he intended to use to kill children at the school. After a brief standoff between Hill and the police on the scene, she eventually convinced him not to go through with his plans.
On Thursday evening, the White House released a short statement through the pool noting that "This afternoon, the President called Antoinette Tuff to thank her for the courage she displayed while talking to a gunman who entered the school where she works earlier this week."
Tuff was on Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday evening, where she described her call with the president, which looks like it happened while Tuff was getting ready to go on CNN. "Awesome. Oh God it was awesome," she said of hearing Obama's voice on the other line, adding, "It was the best voice I could ever hear." Obama, according to Tuff, called her a hero told her that he hoped to meet her one day in person, adding that his entire family was proud of her too.
While reports of Tuff's courage emerged soon after the averted shooting, it was the 911 call, released earlier today, pretty much solidifies just how much of a hero she is:
"It's gonna be all right, sweetie," Tuff says to the gunman after he decides to surrender, "I just want you to know that I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing. You've just given up. Don't worry about it."
Tuff also met Kendra McCray, the 911 dispatcher who talked with her for close to a half an hour as she talked Hill down, on Cooper's show. At the end of the call, Tuff told her, "I'm going to tell you something, baby: I've never been so scared in all the days in my life." McCray's reply? "You did great." On Cooper's show, McCray said "I've never had a call where the caller was so calm and confident...you made my job a whole lot easier."
Tuff, who sympathized with Hill, who told her that he had mental health issues and hadn't been able get his medication before attempting the school shooting, has set up a fund to benefit underprivileged kids:
Tuff, who credited God with her courage, told Cooper she doesn't consider herself a hero.