Respect is something I have written about before. It is a subject that is personally very important to me and I firmly believe that if the rest of the world felt the same way – it would be a far, far better world.
The incredible, life-altering power of respect was made crystal clear, last week, on Tuesday, August 20th in an elementary school in Georgia, just outside Atlanta. If you have not heard this story, then you really, really need to go look up the details. It is an amazing story and that is NOT an exaggeration!
I want to focus on one aspect of the story that has not been directly mentioned in the news much if at all, and that is the respect element to the story and how, when it was used with honesty and love, it was more powerful than any gun.
On that Tuesday morning, a 20 year old gunman came into the front office of the school with an AK-47 (he may have had other guns as well) and at least 500 rounds of ammunition. He was clearly there to commit mass murder. In the front office that day (even though she originally was not supposed to be there but ended up being there as a result of a scheduling change at the last minute) was a woman by the name of Antoinette Tuff. We have since learned that she was one of a few school administrators that had received some training on how to deal with a crisis situation, but let’s be honest – what she does goes well beyond any training any school administrator would ever take part in.
Standing in front of her is a troubled young man who is heavily armed and clearly intent on killing as many people as possible. We know the whole story because she was on the phone with a 911 operator and the time and her entire conversation with the gunman was recorded of course. At first, when in a moment of frustration he goes outside and fires his weapon into the ground, she asks the 911 operator if she should take this opportunity to run. The vast majority of us would have seized the opportunity to run and save ourselves. But she stays as he walks back into the office!
She then proceeds to talk to him and try and calm him down. Listen to the entire conversation and you will see something truly amazing. She treats him with love and respect! She sees him for what he really is, a troubled fellow human being and tells him about the struggles she has dealt with in her life, making it clear that she wants to help HIM. Seriously…?! Again – a vast, vast majority of us would be thinking about ways to either flee from him or hurt or kill the gunman, but she, through the strength of her character – reaches out to him and treats him with the respect that he deserves as a fellow human being! In later interviews she credits her faith and the strength she received from God in that situation. While I believe that was true, I also believe that she was still acting in a way that was true to her character. God may have given her the strength to do what she did- but who she truly was as a person was what He strengthened.
Here is verbatim what she says to him towards the end after he has agreed to give up and lie down on the floor so the police can come in and arrest him: “It’s going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’re just giving up and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life.”
Read that again. She actually tells him she loves him…! I would be willing to bet that virtually none of us when faced with a mentally unbalanced, heavily armed gunman, intent to kill us, would tell him that we love him and go on to say that we are proud of him for now doing the right thing and not harming anyone. The cynical (and I would add – heartless) among us would have you believe that she (having been trained) was simply acting a part, and was therefore telling him things to calm him down so that he wouldn’t hurt her. I say that is complete 100%, Grade A, directly off the stable floor – bullshit!
The NRA has said time and time again that the only way to stop a badman with a gun – is a good person with a gun. While it is hard to argue the cold, simplistic and narrow-minded logic of that – I think on August 20th we were given a powerful reminder that there are things that, when we recognize the humanity in another person, can do that are far more powerful and with greater positive results than reacting to anger and aggression with more of the same.
A lone woman, fearing for her life, used RESPECT to disarm a heavily-armed gunman with the intent to kill, and saved many lives (including his) in the process.
Think about that…