Hurrah: Learning more about Antoinette Tuff’s religion

The other day I was reading an obituary of Tom Christian, descendent of the Bounty mutineer. It was in the New York Times and written by my very favorite obituary writer, Margalit Fox.

So, right up top the obit included this line:

Mr. Christian, who for his services to Pitcairn was named a Member of the British Empire in 1983, was long considered an elder statesman on the island. He served for years on the Island Council, the local governing body, and was a lay elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to which most islanders belong.

Thank you! It’s a common refrain here, but oh how frustrating it is to not learn the basics of someone’s religious affiliation. It seems like such a modest expectation, but one that is frequently unmet.

Which gets us to this follow-up about my new favorite person: Antoinette Tuff.

You may remember that she’s the bookkeeper who talked a deranged man out of shooting up any students or faculty at an Atlanta area school. Listening to her 9-1-1 call is wonderfully inspirational. She’s so realistic about the threat but she just manages her fear and speaks to the gunman with love. We talked about some early coverage here.

A long-time GetReligion reader sent in this CNN story that explored some of her religious views, headlined “CNN Exclusive: A hug, then ‘We made it!’ as school bookkeeper, dispatcher reunite.” The story is about Tuff and 9-1-1 dispatcher Kendra McCray:

In their voices, both women sounded calm throughout the call — even as gunshots were ringing out around Tuff, and later when the suspect reached into a bag to reload his AK-47-type assault rifle.

But inside, they now admit, they were terrified.

McCray recalled Thursday how her hands were shaking, though she knew that she couldn’t reveal her fears in her voice. And Tuff said she was trying to incorporate the lessons she’d learned in church to stay strong for herself, the 800-plus elementary school students in the classrooms behind her — and for the gunman whom she came to feel for.

“I was actually praying on the inside,” she recalled. “I was terrified, but I just started praying.”

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The heroism of Antoinette Tuff

YouTube Preview ImageA reader sent along a link to a story about an amazing woman who talked down a gunman at an Atlanta-area elementary school. Her name is Antoinette Tuff and the full 9-1-1 call she made — which includes her conversation with the gunman — is gripping. You can hear it from CNN here. Her courage is inspiring and her love for her neighbors is just beautiful. She talks about her own hardships to help him see that he’s not alone in having a bad situation. The love she shows the mentally disturbed man who could have destroyed so many lives is just staggering.

The story the reader sent in, from ABC News/Yahoo included the following passages:

Hill, according to Tuff, said he had no reason to live because nobody loved him.

“And I just explained to him that I loved him,” Tuff told ABC News in an exclusive interview Tuesday night. “I didn’t know much about him. I didn’t know his name but I did love him and it was scary because I knew at that moment he was ready to take my life along with his, and if I didn’t say the right thing, then we all would be dead.”…

“I knew at that time it was bigger than me,” she said. “He was really a hurting young man, so I just started praying for him. And just started talking to him and allowing him to know everything that was going on with me and that everything was going to be OK.”

Then Tuff made the request that she said helped end the standoff. She asked the suspect to put his weapons down, empty his pockets and backpack and lie on the floor.

“He brought a gun bag, a book bag, a bag full of ammunitions in there, a bunch of magazine clips in there, a whole lot of stuff,” she said…

Tuff said she will be returning to work later this morning.

“Yes, I will be back,” she said, “sitting in that same seat, blessing that next person.”

The comment from the reader, a journalist herself, “Talk about a religion hole.”

Indeed. If you want to know more about the religious motivations of this woman who helped save so many lives, don’t look to em>Parade magazine. The story has nothing about her religious views.

One of my concerns about how journalists cover shootings is the fame given to those who kill others. When men and women courageously thwart gunmen, their names and actions should be remembered and covered well. The media have, in fact, done a good job of noting Tuff’s courage, but looking at what gave her the strength to handle such a worrisome situation could be handled better.

The Los Angeles Times ended its piece on the matter with this quote:

When it was all over, she said a prayer: “I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ “

NBC News gave this snippet:

Only after the ordeal was over did Tuff reveal just how scared she’d been the whole time:

“I’m going to tell you something baby — I’ve never been so scared in all the days in my life,” she told the unidentified operator. Then, she started crying and exclaimed, “Oh, Jesus! Oh, God!”

To which the operator told the courageous bookkeeper: “You did great. Hold on. Hold on”

More, please.

There’s another religion angle cropping up in this story.

[Read more...]

Pay wall blues: This inspirational SI cover gets religion

Are there any working journalists in this day and age who do not have a love-hate relationship with paywalls, those digital fortresses erected by many publications to force readers to pay for their best online content?

I understand why they make sense. I am sure that they save some jobs. Personally, I favor some kind of micro-payment option that allows readers to pay for individual articles, if they so choose.

This, however, is a topic for another day. I have been waiting to see when the folks at Sports Illustrated would post a complete version of their June 19th cover story on an American hero named Frank Hall, who put his life on the line to help save students at Chardon (Ohio) High School. I still cannot find the text online.

Yes, this story ran in a sports publication, but it is more than a sports story. I want to call it to the attention of GetReligion readers, even the 99 percent who are not interested in the world of sports, because it is one of the best features I have come across in some time, especially if you are interested in journalism that blends faith content into the narrative in an appropriate manner.

I didn’t think that at first. I suspected that there was a faith element in this story early on, but, rather cynically, I also suspected that the SI team would avoid it. Here is a key moment early on that sets the stage for the drama in this national news story:

His eyes swept the room, his pen checking off the study-hall attendance list as the morning announcements ended. The three football players always at his elbow at 7:37 — fullback John Connic, who used Frank’s file drawers as his personal locker, and the Izar twins, defensive end Tom and linebacker Quinn — were all missing that day, John off taking a test and the Izards, thank God, late for school. Besides the cafeteria staff, Frank was now the only adult in the room.

Two loud pops jerked his head to the right. His hearing had always been bad.

Firecrackers, he thought. Then came another pop and another as he rose and took in the whirl of one boy slumped over a table, two others crumpled to the floor, two staggering away with bullet wounds, and a mad scramble of screaming children everywhere in the room.

Here it was, the question lodged in the recesses of all the educators’ brains in America, the one that their minds race to and away from without ever resolving, the one to which the rest of us seem to have unconsciously agreed to condemn them all: What will I do if a kid in my school pulls out a gun and starts shooting?

Here’s what Frank never could’ve guessed, all the years his mind had darted to and from that question: His anger trumped everything; it trampled thought and even fear. It sent his legs barging right through his brown table and straight at the gunman, sent his hand flying up, sent his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!”

Yes, anger is part of the picture — but not the most crucial part.

[Read more...]


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