Have you heard the 911 call? Recorded live as a gunman stormed a school in Georgia on Tuesday, a calm woman took control of chaos and helped avoid another Newtown mass shooting.
The hero of the moment is Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at the Ronald E. McNair Academy. When the fully armed (packing 500 rounds of ammunition) suspect Michael Brandon Hill stormed the school, by some stroke of good fortune and God's grace it was Antoinette who talked the would-be mass murderer off the proverbial ledge. You must listen to the call. She schooled those who would ever hope to train as hostage negotiators.
What is so stunning is that she spoke to the shooter first and foremost as a person and not as potential murderer or mentally unstable person. She called Hill 'sir' and 'sweetie.' She confessed her own struggles. At one point she told him "I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you."
When it was all over and no lives were lost, it was clear that Antoinette was fully aware of the danger she was in on that day. She also said "Oh Jesus" when it was finally over. I do not know of her religious upbringing, but I have a hunch that her church and faith formation gave her the words and the courage to tell the shooter that she did not hate him. All would be well.
We say at each baptism service that we covenant to live out our faith by "respecting the dignity of every human being." How do we do that? The school bookkeeper from Decatur showed us the way. Share our humanity. Do not hate. Meet suffering with compassion and look to God to deliver us from moments beyond our ability to manage alone.