Antoinette Tuff’s 911 call on Ga. shooting suspect is a portrait of poise, compassion ~ Petula Dvorak, Washington Post

This is not Friday leftovers. Far from it. Such an incredible story must be reblogged again and again.

America, listen to Antoinette Tuff.

Please.

Thanks to her, this time there will be no funerals with tiny caskets, no candlelit vigils and no families broken by grief.

No one was shot Tuesday after a man slipped into an elementary school just outside Atlanta with an AK-47-style assault rifle, 500 rounds of ammo and “nothing to live for.”

Why?

Not because we listened to gun advocates who said we should arm teachers with weapons.

Not because we took the advice of the National Rifle Association, which said schools should have armed officers.

Not because we heeded the school board directives to make frightening “intruder drills” part of every curriculum.

Probably, a mass shooting didn’t happen because the gunman listened to Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga. Police have identified the suspect as Michael Brandon Hill, 20.

On Thursday, President Obama identified Tuff as a hero, with a surprise phone call thanking her for her act of bravery.

As soon as the man entered the school and fired one round into the floor, Tuff called 911 and stayed smooth and calm as a computer help line operator. She kept a conversation going among herself, the gunman and the 911 dispatcher.

She calmed him. She told him that he wasn’t alone in having troubles. Her husband walked out on her after 33 years, she said, and she has a “multiple-disabled” son. She soothed that man holding an assault rifle by telling him, “We all go through something in life.”

“I’m sitting here with you and talking to you about it,” she told him when he mumbled something about no one wanting to listen to him.

As she persuaded the young man to surrender, she said: “We not going to hate you, baby. It’s a good thing that you’re giving up, so we’re not going to hate you.”

She offered to act as his human shield, to walk outside the school with him so police wouldn’t shoot.

She even told him she loved him, cared about him and was proud of him as he began to stand down.

Are you listening to her, America?

Her 911 call — listen to the whole thing; it’s riveting — is a portrait of poise, compassion and selflessness. She was exactly what America is forgetting to be.

“What do they want? Why did they do this?” we wondered after Adam Lanza ripped apart an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 first-graders and six staff members in December, and after every one of the mass shootings that have become unbelievably frequent in our country.

When we were doubled over in grief after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama spoke about the sickening routine that this kind of tragedy has become.

“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children,” he said. “And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

“The politics” proved too powerful to control the lethal arsenal that too many people believe they have a right to possess. The deaths of first-graders weren’t enough to change the gun-control debate.

Just because we dodged 500 bullets this time and all those sweet children in Georgia are alive doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go through the national soul-searching that comes after these tragedies.

In that school in Georgia, as the children and teachers began the intruder drills, the gunman gave Tuff a pretty clear list of what drove him to that school with that weapon and that plan.

“Call the news,” he told her. He wanted attention.

He said he was off his medication and “just wants to go to the hospital.” He wanted better health care.

He told her that he “wants to go on the intercom and let everybody know he’s sorry.” He wanted someone to hear him and to forgive him.

He wanted her to know it was easy to get an assault rifle when you’re on probation and mentally ill. He just took it from a friend.

After the suspect was in custody, Tuff exhaled.

“I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life. Oh, Jesus,” she told the 911 operator.

Thank you, Antoinette Tuff, for using your head and your heart to save those kids.

“Deliberate violence is more to be quenched than a fire.” ~ Heraclitus

                   

“We decry violence all the time in this country, but look at our history. We were born in a violent revolution, and we’ve been in wars ever since. We’re not a pacific people.” ~ James Lee Burke

I just don’t understand. I don’t understand what is going on in this country. No other country in the world has nearly as much gun violence. And don’t talk to me about second amendment rights. Do you really need automatic weapons to bring down a deer? Please.

Every time this happens—and that statement itself reveals far too much (as in it has happened too many times and it continues to happen)—we starts to make comments about what we can do to prevent this, and then a month later, nothing has been done, and nothing will be done.

And by the way, more than 50 percent of NRA members agree that background checks are a necessary precaution, and in that vein, agree that the gun show loophole needs to be closed.

No, this maniac did not buy his guns. He got them from someone in his family. But still, he had access to weapons that are not used for hunting. These were weapons whose purpose is to kill, wound, maim human beings. And don’t even say that if he hadn’t had a gun, he would have used something else. Could he have killed 20 children that quickly with say, a brick?

I’m tired of your arguments. I’m tired of the Charlton Heston attitude of prying my gun from my cold dead hands. I’m tired of what we do to one another. I’m tired of nothing of any consequence ever being done by any administration because the people in charge of the NRA are myopic, and apparently everyone is afraid of them. I’m tired of hearing that “now is not the time to have a discussion on gun control.”

If not now, then when? When the next school massacre occurs? We did nothing of consequence after Aurora. We even did nothing of consequence after Virginia Tech. We continue to do nothing.

NOTHING.

“So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.” ~ Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

Other countries who allow handguns do not have the kind of violence that we have. Consider Israel, a pretty violence country, all things considered, had 58 handgun deaths last year. Compared to our country’s 10,728 handgun deaths, that’s 185 times more deaths. Is anyone else bothered by this math?

What makes us such a violent society? Video games? Movies like Batman? Pshaw. You and I both know that that’s simply not it. We are violent because we have this innate belief that we are superior to everyone else, and in that position of superiority, we do not hold ourselves to the same standards as the rest of the world. We have different rules in the U.S. because, well, just because we can, I suppose.

We do not love one another. We do not respect one another, and we certainly do not care about one another. We have rampant poverty. We have children who are starving. We have families who live in cars. But we are an advanced super power.

I’ve had it. I am so sick of the party line, whichever party it is. We have a real problem in this country, and until we face up to it, nothing is going to change.

NOTHING.

More from Adam Gopnik:

The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children. They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns, placed in the balance even against the routine murder of innocent children, is of supreme value. Whatever satisfaction gun owners take from their guns—we know for certain that there is no prudential value in them—is more important than children’s lives. Give them credit: life is making moral choices, and that’s a moral choice, clearly made.

All of that is a truth, plain and simple, and recognized throughout the world. At some point, this truth may become so bloody obvious that we will know it, too. Meanwhile, congratulate yourself on living in the child-gun-massacre capital of the known universe.

The pervasive attitude of I’ve got mine, to hell with the rest of you? It’s killing our souls.

People, he walked in and deliberately targeted kindergarten students. Does that not say something to you? Does that not speak to your very moral fiber?

I know that my rant is all over the place. For more studied and better developed commentary, take a look at the links below.

I also know that I haven’t really made any kind of cogent argument here. I don’t care, I tell you. I just don’t care. And you know what else? I would bet my mortgage money that this time next month, even six months from now, that the changes we are clamoring for, the reforms that we say are needed, that what we will see will be

NOTHING.

                   

In the Loop

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.