By Sandy Daley
When Michael Brandon Hill, a 20 year old man with a history of mental illness snuck into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur Georgia last Tuesday, armed with an AK 47 style rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition, he had no idea his path would ever cross with Antoinette Tuff.
Tuff, the school bookkeeper who displayed an outwardly cool and calm demeanor, literally saved not only the lives of the 800 students, but also perhaps the lives of dozens of police officers, and maybe even the life of Hill himself.
The incidents that led up to the capture of Hill, all caught on a 911 recorded tape between Tuff and Kendra McCray (the 911 dispatcher who happened to receive that call when it came in), is nothing short of miraculous. Both women worked courageously for over an hour to diffuse the situation and thankfully no one was injured during the terrifying ordeal.
Not only was Tuff heroic in her actions, but with major problems in her own life, (she revealed to Hill that she almost committed suicide and that her husband had also walked out on her after 30 plus years of marriage even while she cared for her son who was born with major disabilities), she also showed respect and love to this lost soul.
An AK 47 and over 500 rounds of ammunition was no match for a simple bookkeeper armed with the love of God, a generous heart and a purpose to live and to be helpful to others. How many of us could learn something from her courageous attitude, even as we are faced with the most horrible of situations and circumstances? I know that I have learnt a lot while watching her story over and over again.
Nelson Mandela wrote, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” And conquer her fears she did! It would have been so easy for Tuff not to care about how this situation turned out, and only try to save herself from certain death.
However, what she did has allowed us to see that we are not in this fight alone. She eloquently reminded Hill of this fact when he mentioned to her during the stand-off that it would have been easier perhaps for him just to kill himself, “You don’t want to do that baby, as we all go through stuff in life,” she said. And that is a certainty! We certainly do “all go through stuff” at some time of our lives: the trick is to remember that none of us are immune to problems and that God should always be our anchor in times of trouble.
When we remember that we are all human beings, and that God does have a purpose for us all, it is easy to come back to a state of contentment. Our purpose might not be revealed to us as yet, but throughout all of our issues and problems, even when we feel hopeless and have suicidal thoughts, our faith in the Lord should never be shaken. Also, never forget who you are and what your skills and attributes are, as each man is born with a set of gifts that only he alone has been bestowed with.
My love for the creative process and my passion for writing gives me a purpose, a reason for my existence, as it allows me to give back to the world in unimaginable ways. My passion and love for my craft invokes others to become involved and aware, whether they agree with me or not on whatever subject matter that I might tackle. This is my love; this keeps me sane and gives me the courage to go forward, even when confronted by fear.
What is your purpose in life? Are you living a life that gives back to others, or do you merely just “exist”? When life throws you a lemon, you must find a way to make lemonade or lemon meringue pie if you wish.
Also, remember Antoinette Tuff’s words, “Baby, everything is going to be alright,” and to “push past the pain”: all teachings that she learnt in her worship at her church. I, like Anderson Cooper definitely need to hear both sayings on a daily basis and yes, I would gladly have Antoinette Tuff’s voice with those exact words on my ringtone as well. What a woman!