[Content note: gun violence]
This woman is a hero.
On Tuesday, a man entered a grade school in Atlanta armed with an assault rifle, exchanged shots with police, and ultimately surrendered. The school's bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff, was held hostage by the gunman and, in an interview with Diane Sawyer, reports convincing him to put his weapons down and surrender:
"'He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,' Tuff told ABC.
She told him her life story, about how her marriage fell apart after 33 years and the 'roller coaster' of opening her own business.
'I told him, 'OK, we all have situations in our lives,' she said. 'It was going to be OK. If I could recover, he could, too.'
Then Tuff said she asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack on the floor.
'I told the police he was giving himself up. I just talked him through it,' she said.
In an interview with WSB, an ABC affiliate, Tuff said she tried to keep Hill talking to prevent him from walking into the hallway or through the school building.
'He had a look on him that he was willing to kill — matter of fact he said it. He said that he didn't have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today,' Tuff said, adding that Hill told her he was sure he'd be killed because he'd shot at police officers. 'I knew that if he got out that door he was gonna kill everybody,' she said."
After a gunman fatally shot 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, anti-feminist Charlotte Allen used her voice at the National Review Online to bemoan our purportedly "feminized" (i.e.- bad, weak, powerless) school system that purportedly allowed the incident to happen.
Specifically, she wondered how things might have turned out differently had there been a male janitor around to "heave his bucket" at the killer, or maybe even some "huskier twelve-year-old boys" to somehow converge on the killer and disarm him of his semi-automatic weapons. Of the women who threw themselves in front of bullets to protect children, not a word regarding their heroism.
Well, this woman - Antoinette Tuff, that is - did a heroic thing by using her humanity to connect with the humanity of a potential killer to de-escalate a terrifying situation. That is not a thing that is easy to do, especially when confronted with, potentially, one's own imminent death. A common reaction, as Charlotte Allen demonstrates, is instead to dehumanize any real or perceived threat and then seek to eliminate it by, say, throwing buckets or, erm, 12-year-old boys at it.
Ms. Tuff is a hero despite the narratives that tell us that heroes must be physically violent, physically overpowering, and most importantly of all male (and usually white, as well).