Antoinette Tuff

antoinette tuff

Hero Antoinette Tuff

This will be a news story told the next several days a thousand times, praised a hundred different ways, and likely gone viral on social media.  This last Tuesday in Decatur, Georgia a simple office clerk at an elementary school, full of students, treated a psychologically unstable gunman as a human being and averted a potentially bloody all too familiar school massacre.  The risks that Antoinette Tuff had put herself can only be described as temporarily super-human — the right person, with the right background, in the right place at the right time — possibly saving many more young innocent lives.

If you haven’t yet listened or watched the news footage on all major networks, then do it.  It is well worth the time.  Here’s the CNN link:  click here.

This story and lady hits a very personal nerve and flashback with me.  I have been in (and in some ways am still in today) practically the exact same situation Ms. Tuff found herself.  My personal story with a mentally unstable gunman can be read here:  What Was I Thinking?

I am also an elementary-middle school teacher.  I am a brother to a psychiatric sister who often either gets off her psych-meds or is forced off her psych-meds due to clinical restrictions, bureaucratic tape or “economic policy.”  Our local state hospital and nearby meds-clinic just recently had a woman refused her psych prescriptions (reasons unknown to me) then left the clinic emotionally distraught in her car and crashed it 3-blocks away, killing herself and injuring others at the four-way red-light intersection.  I am also a former 3 1/2 year employee of a Psych-A&D hospital’s Intake Office or Crisis Center/Office.  I do indeed have personal experience with many situations like Ms. Tuff experienced, including her own divorce — for me two divorces — and thoughts of suicide by her self and her gunman; although in my personal experience the suicide was accomplished.

So watching and listening to Ms. Tuff’s situation and 911 call, choked me up and touched a sensitive emotional nerve with me…to put it mildly.

I have three points or questions I want to present to my readers and followers:

  1. Did Ms. Tuff’s demeanor and treatment of the gunman de-escalate his emotional and mental instability, or did the gunman eventually recognize his own insane behavior?
  2. How far should individuals or society allow mental psych patients (on or off their meds) to throw tantrums of highly inappropriate behavior, even violence, to get what they want?
  3. Given that the majority of mental psych patients (and often their families) cannot function perfectly in society or jobs/careers, WHO should foot their treatment bills?  Who suffers most when people like this gunman snap?

With these questions I hope to draw attention to America’s increasingly social dysfunctional problem-solving systems and education, as well as how best to address them.  Do we keep locking them up?  They’ve done that hundreds of times with my sister with little improvement other than temporary band-aids.

Please let me hear your comments, thoughts and feelings.  Because one day you may find yourself face-to-face with the same type of gunman.  What would you do in Ms. Tuff’s situation?

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12 thoughts on “Antoinette Tuff

  1. Professor,
    The gunman stood down because Ms. Tuff showed him respect, which all human beings deserve. My guess is that he never received that respect growing up and led him to his psychological problems then the extreme action at the school. Perhaps world leaders could learn from Ms. Tuff’s larger lesson here. Show all people true respect and then violence and war will be diminished and stopped.
    Thank you,


    • Thanks Jerry for the comment. I had a feeling (and welcomed) and hoped you would connect the broader lesson. Recognizing and practicing simple human dignity, unless proven otherwise, can go a very long way, huh?


  2. I’m torn regarding your questions. On the one hand, yes. She definitely helped to de-escalate this guy with her empathy and kindness. She was smart about the way she forced him to relate to her as a person by sharing her own personal story. Her kindness and fortitude in the face of such scary and trying circumstances was definitely impressive. She was brave.

    I have a very hard time excusing the danger that his “tantrum” or whatever one calls what he did. He endangered other people’s lives with his behavior. That’s never okay in my book. I never want death to be the answer, and I’m sure you already know that. I just have no idea what the correct answer is for these situations. I’m glad they are alive. I hope there is a way to heal their spirit…. But beyond that…I’m at a loss.


    • I agree Kitt, violent tantrums are not the right, only or best solution for a mentally-ill person or group to invoke change. However, are mentally-ill mentally-challenged people capable of appropriate logic and behavior…even when they are off their meds?

      Which begs my questions: Who is responsible for those social-clinical breakdowns? Who ends up bearing the brunt of their violence when they snap?

      I tend to believe that the community as a whole shares the burden and responsibility of these types of sad or horribly-ending situations. No one in the community is completely immune; the “consequences” affect all in the community in some form on some level.


      • Thinking on these situation usually leaves more questions than answers. I find myself wondering about history and circumstances. Sad to say, there are extenuating circumstances that, for me, cause me to feel more empathy. PTSD is one of them. Certain psychotic breaks brought on by prolonged sexual and physical abuse. Those situations break my heart for everyone directly impact (which only supports your thoughts that everyone is impacted to certain extents).


        • “…more questions than answers.” Kitt, you couldn’t be more precise. After extensive autopsies were completed, the infamous University Texas Austin tower-gunman Charles Whitman, a former U.S. Marine, who killed 17 students and wounded 32 others with his sharpshooting, doctors, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, and forensic scientists concluded that Whitman’s actions the day of the shootings were most likely attributed to his astrocytoma tumor pressing against the region of the brain that controls our fight-or-flight emotions and responses. My point?

          If society, i.e. private sectors including wealthy/powerful individuals, choose not to eagerly reinvest in public programs, public research in medical & scientific endeavors, in public education, in public health facilities and above-minimum-wage staff who are able & WILLING to help, to treat, and assist those in our populations that are mentally unstable and/or financially unable to get proper treatment & education for many various economic reasons… then as history has shown over & over it is society as a whole — including the top 1% – 10% of society — who eventually suffer. Suffer in indirect ways, but one day suffer directly because the masses have reached their breaking-point.

          My further point? No matter who you are, what type of house or nation you live in, how many $75,000 cars you drive, or what type of social classes you associate with on a daily basis… we are ALL in this together, for better or worse. Collaboratively we have the choice(s)! JESUS (who I don’t believe in! LOL), Antoinette Tuff exhibited this mentality EXQUISITELY! She deserves not only a Congressional Medal of Honor, but a badge of “I Am Part of this Human Family Too” medal!

          And now for a message from our sponsors… 😉


          • I think, for that to happen, there are also several factors to consider…like medical malpractice affordability and other insurance related issues. There are plenty of talented physicians and nurses who care about people who find themselves forced to go elsewhere or do other things because the cost to practice is just too high. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the biggest, prettiest buildings you’ll see in most urban cities are owned by insurance companies.


            • Again Kitt, your observation is quiet accurate. Let me throw-in several sports stadiums are owned by said financial-risk corporations too.

              You’ve brought up another economic enigma: malpractice lawsuits & the cost of “coverage” against them. That very med-clinic I mentioned in my post is now being taken to court for liability and malpractice by the staff to that psych patient.

              Bottom-line…in order for this country & our communities to actually BE more about equality & fairness (that our Constitution conveys & protects), the “American Way”… we must have efficient, well-paid, well-educated referees, umpires, i.e. public officials and public resources to MAKE the playing-fields fair! Why do so many on the Right not get it? Why do they usually advocate more & more freedom, deregulation, less taxes, bigger business under obese commercialism…that all nurture individualism, segregation of classes (via “success”), and hundreds more of Michael Hill gunmen in the future?

              Philanthropy, community-giving, and altruism AREN’T just ideas of wonderment, they’re actually a necessity that should have been learned centuries or millennia ago shortly after the Dark Ages. But anyway, that’s my humble opinion on this measly unpopular web blog. 😉


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