Thursday 22 August 2013

Compassion and Courage

As I get ready to return to my teaching job, and all its myriad rewards and challenges, the very last thing that I want to think about is "school shooters." Words cannot describe the horror that strikes my very being at the thought of a murderer in a school, taking lives and shattering precious trust and safety. I never ever want to meet such a person. I don't want anyone, loved one or acquaintance or stranger, anywhere in the universe, to ever meet such a person. I don't want anyone to be such a person. I want to build a world where nobody would ever consider walking into a school with a shotgun.  Even though we practice lockdown drills yearly, even though I've watched policemen at my school doing a drill (complete with "victims") where they take down a gunman, I shudder to even picture an actual gunman at my school, or any school. I'm pretty sure that if I ever experienced such an event, supposing I survived it, it would be the end of me as a teacher.

But when a Facebook friend brought this story to my attention, I just had to share it.

Meet Antoinette Tuff, the woman who prevented a mass school shooting yesterday.
(The video interview is well worth watching and listening to.)

Another article that shares some quotes in print from Antoinette

What blows my mind is that Antoinette Tuff showed such compassion and empathy and love to the gunman. To someone whom she knew could kill her and/or all number of other people any second. It would have been so much easier, so natural, to react with panic or anger. But the qualities that Ms. Tuff showed instead gave her a power that no gun, body armour or security system could give her.

If I have children I want them to live in a world where there are never any school shootings. I want that fear to never even enter their heads. Hell, I want that for all children, whether or not they are mine.

Sadly that isn't the world we live in. So second best, I would like my children to know that there are people like Antoinette in the world, and to know that it is truly a better place because of people like her. I would like them to try to find in themselves the courage and compassion that she shows, although I still hope they will never need to use it in the kind of situation she experienced.  I would say that I want them to know that Antoinette is a true hero, but she says herself that she is not: "I give it all to God." And that doesn't surprise me, and I respect that.

Antoinette says in her interview that she is going back to work tomorrow. People, there is hope for the world.


  1. When I listened to that tape at te end when she started to cry I lost it. As a 911 dispatcher this type of call is a great fear of mine. I'm glad there are people like Antoinette too!

    1. I hadn't listened to the 911 call till I read your comment, then I did. You have a tough job Kasey; you must need nerves of steel. I think I am fairly good at dealing with the occasional crisis, but I don't think I could have a job where there was a crisis on every shift. :-) Yeah, it is chilling to think of those worst case scenarios that we could face on our jobs. I am just happy that this story ended differently, and I hope that everybody with a TV or computer or mobile device or friend in the world can hear about it, and see Antoinette's face and hear her words. Not to make an idol out of such a humble woman, but to let every child and teen and adult who is in crisis know that KILLING IS NOT NECESSARY, and there is an answer to pain, anger, hurt, and rage that is not more violence and injustice.

      Thanks for the comment Kasey. Keep doing your good work every day!

  2. I saw that this morning on the news! There is always glimpses of joy in the mourning!

    1. Absolutely. I am glad this story is getting some news coverage and discussion. It just burns me to think that if people had been hurt and/or killed, the story would generate more news and coverage than it will because no one was hurt. We need glimpses of joy and we need to hear about people doing the right thing.

  3. I am so amazed by this story. Antoinette is truly an angel on earth. By the way, I didn't know you were a teacher, Torthuil. I hope you have a good first day of the new semester!

  4. It is an amazing story. After I read it I found it really hard to concentrate on anything else I had to do, because I couldn't stop thinking about why anyone would walk into a school with a gun and intent to do murder, and secondly what it was about Antoinette that was able to change the way the nightmare ended.

    Thanks for the good wishes for the upcoming school year. If you listened to the interview with Antoinette, there's a piece at the end that stuck out for me. I teach high school special needs (developmental disability). Although Antoinette says she was terrified throughout the standoff, she is calm and self-possessed as she describes in detail the events that unfolded. It's toward the end of the interview that her voice starts to break, as she describes that she has a son with a disability. She doesn't say exactly what it is, but she says that he will never be able to have a job in the normal sense and "it's very *hard*." I work closely with families of disabled teens for the three years they are with us, and yeah, it is hard. Every parent and child deals differently, but it is hard even for the strongest and most capable. I feel very humbled when I think of the strength and resourcefulness that all the kids and families need to find within themselves and in their communities. My intuition tells me that Antoinette's experiences as her son's mom are part of what formed her character to the point where she was able to face a potential murderer with compassion.

  5. I want to hug her. I can't believe what an amazing person she is. When I heard about her, I cried, and while part was due to the near miss, more was gratitude. She was unarmed, unprotected, and had everything to lose. And she lay her life on the line for everyone. We could all be a little more like her.