Everybody's talking about the Georgia school shooting that wasn't after a man walked into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur armed to the nines. Cops say Michael Brandon Hill, 20, planned a Sandy Hook-style attack on the children of the school. But it didn't happen. Why? Because one school clerk is a hero. Because one school clerk did something unexpected in the face of a gunman.
Antoinette Tuff showed compassion.
Not the easiest thing to summon for a would-be school shooter, I know. The photos of Adam Lanza still turn my stomach.
Tuff told Diane Sawyer last night that she tried to calm the shooter down, eventually launching into her own tale of tragedies past, from her marriage falling apart to a failed business venture. Where she could have gotten angry, instead she saw a chance to relate as one human being to another:
I told him, "OK, we all have situations in our lives. I went through a tragedy myself. It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could too."
The strategy was risky. But it worked. The alleged gunman put down his weapons and surrendered to police without killing a single person -- all at Tuff's request.
Tuff is being treated as a hero today for stopping what could have been a heartbreaking tragedy, but she's heroic as much for the way she did it as the fact that it was done.
It's easy to get mad. It's easy to seethe with hate. Just look at the Adam Lanzas or the Michael Brandon Hills of the world.
It's not so easy to look evil in the eyes and see a human being. But let's not forget that often human beings do bad things as a cry in the dark, an attempt to get the attention of other human beings -- albeit negative attention. When someone feels like they're so disconnected from the world, that there is no compassion left, they're more apt to do something desperate. Turning them around isn't always easy; sometimes they're too far gone.
But sometimes all it takes is a little human kindness and compassion.
What do you think of this brave clerk's move? What would you have done in her shoes?
Image via police