ATLANTA — The school bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy who averted a mass shooting in 2013 is a hero in the eyes of many.
Now, nearly six years after that entire ordeal Antoinette Tuff continues her work to not only inspire but help so many people as an author, public speaker and national expert.
“It has been a whirlwind for me, but also an exciting time. It took me from being in suicide moments for myself to now being able to help those that feel like they want to commit suicide,” she said.
On August 20, 2013, shortly after arriving to work at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Tuff was in the front office when Michael Hill, a young man with a history of mental illness, snuck in, armed with an AK-47 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. As the school went into lockdown, Tuff was left alone with Hill, who repeatedly threatened to kill everyone. Showing enormous courage and empathy, along with nerves of steel, Tuff convinced Hill to surrender by using her own life struggles to connect with him.
“I didn’t know that day I was a hostage negotiator. People from all over the world say you use what we use in our textbooks,” Tuff mentioned.
“It only takes one moment to change the rest of your life. I’ve been now doing public speaking in corporations and school districts. Also, in organizations and being able to teach people my Tuff tactics which is compassion, confidence and control,” she explained.
Tuff said life after the near mass shooting wasn’t easy. She coped with PTSD and had to deal with suddenly being thrust into the national spotlight.
“I put one foot in front of the other. It’s no magic to say if you go do a, b, c it’s going to change your life,” Tuff said.
Tuff said nothing brings her more pride than her non-profit, Kids On the Move for Success.
A program that has awarded scholarships and offers one on one mentoring.
“You normally see me with a group of my kids. We are either at a sTEAM (mentoring program) event, I tell my parents I need some mommy time. You all go about your business go and do what you’re going to do. I’m going to take my babies,” Tuff said smiling.
“What have I learned from this entire experience is loving me. I didn’t know how to do that before August 20th. Learning that I am somebody,” she stated.
Senator Johnny Isakson recently recognized Tuff at the "It's Time for Unity" conference for her work in the community.
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