It was an amazing moment, only on CNN. For the first time, Antoinette Tuff, who is being called the coolest, calmest hero you have ever heard...meets the 911 operator who had been the other voice at the end of that emergency call.
"We made it," Tuff said as the two women met for the first time.
Kendra McRae said, like everyone else, she was in awe of Tuff. "She is a true hero. I say that she missed her calling," McRae said.
McRae said she was deeply afraid for the woman face to face with a mentally unstable gunman. "I was terrified," she said.
The two women recalled for Anderson Cooper the horror on that day. "Through her words I felt like I was there," McRae told Cooper.
But their fear was never evident in the 911 call that riveted America. "He just went outside and started shooting," Tuff said, who revealed 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill's first shot was into the floor just a few feet away from her.
"To know that this was not a game and that he was not playing and that he was for serious..." Tuff told Cooper.
Tuff also knew the lives of 800 students hung in the balance. "Started drawing his gun up, so then I started talking to him, saying 'come back in. just stay in here with me, don't go anywhere, stay in here," she said.
And, so began one of the most frightening and fascinating negotiations ever recorded. The scariest moment, Tuff says, was watching Hill methodically load the gun. "He had bullets everywhere on top of magazines, so I knew when he made that last call that he was going to go...because he had loaded up to go," she said.
Yet, instead of feeling fear or anger...Tuff says she felt compassion...recalling her own personal heartbreaks, even contemplating suicide. "I had been in that situation. I had been in that devastating moment when all of the things happened to me, so I knew that that could have been my story," she said.
Just before her CNN interview, Tuff got another surprise, ironically over the phone from President Barack Obama. "He wanted to let me know him and his wife and his family is very proud of what I did, and everybody wanted to thank me," she said.
Tuff gives all credit to her faith...believing her role was part of a Heavenly plan. "I feel like I helped somebody in need, that God was able to use me, and it was an honor to be able to be used," she said.
Hill had walked in with an assault rifle...ready to kill...but in the end was no match for a bookkeeper armed with love, backed by a dispatcher who was her life line.
The standoff ended with no one getting hurt.
And, we're learning more about the man accused of opening fire inside Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center.
Hill's brother says he has a history of mental illness, even allegedly trying to set the family's home on fire with eight people inside. So, when Tim Hill got word his brother walked into a school with a gun, he wasn't completely shocked. "I was a little bit, but over the years of growing up with him, it almost seemed like eventually he would do something like this, but not to this magnitude," Tim Hill said.
Authorities think that Hill had about 500 rounds of ammunition when he entered the school outside Atlanta, in Decatur, on Tuesday.
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