Yesterday, the world met Antoinette Tuff, the amazingly level-headed school clerk who turned into a one-woman crisis management team when 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill showed up at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy dressed in black and armed with an AK-47 on Tuesday. Last night, we got an even better idea of just how compassionate and calm under fire Tuff was thanks to the full recording of the 911 call she made while the terrifying situation unfolded.
The tape, at more than 24 minutes, is long and full of stretches of silence—but it’s incredible to listen to and worth the time. Early on, you hear Tuff consider making a run for it while Hill was outside shooting. “No, he’s going to see me running, and he’s coming back,” Tuff tells the dispatcher in a moment that forces you to more fully consider, however briefly, the alternative scenarios that could have played out at the elementary school if she had fled.
In what may be the most incredible moment in a tape full of them—one that comes after Tuff has convinced Hill to surrender and shortly before the police come in—the school clerk tells Hill that she loves him. “It’s gonna be all right, sweetie,” she says. “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.” It’s only later, after police have Hill in custody, that we hear Tuff’s voice waver. “Let me tell you something, baby,” she tells the dispatcher. “I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life.”