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911 stars

Published August 28. 2013 05:00PM

Having the right person at the right time in a crisis situation is critical.

Seeing those persons perform calmly and decisively makes them extraordinary.

That happened twice recently with 911 callers. One incident involved a Georgia elementary school bookkeeper and the second, a 12-year-old Texas boy.

The school employee in the first case was Antoinette Tuff. She was in the school office at E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, located in a suburb east of Atlanta, when Michael Brandon Hill, a 20-year-old man with a history of mental health issues, entered the building and threatened to open fire with his an AK 47 assault rifle.

Despite being taken hostage by the gunman, Tuff was able to relay messages to county emergency 911 dispatchers. Her calmness during the crisis was extraordinary, especially since Hill fired off nearly 500 rounds at police officers who had surrounded the building.

She told the dispatcher that Hill said he wasn't there to hurt the children but wanted to talk to an unarmed officer. She learned that he didn't seem to have any friends and he rarely talked about his family. He also confided to her that he should have gone to the mental hospital because he was not on his medication.

"He had a look on him that he was willing to kill - matter of fact he said it," Tuff stated in a later interview. "He said that he didn't have any reason to live and that he knew he was going to die today."

Thankfully, Tuff was able to calm the gunman down and convince him to surrender. Her ongoing dialog with the gunman prevented him from walking into the hallway or through the school building. The students were able to exit the building with police and teachers escorting them to safety.

No one was injured, thanks to the care and concern of Tuff, who the distraught gunman came to trust.

The second 911 hero of the week is 12-year-old Deion Murdock who was home alone in Port Arthur, Texas, when he heard a window being broken and saw men enter his house. He ran into his mother's bedroom and dialed 911. The boy hid in a bedroom closet and quietly kept talking to the dispatcher, who tried to calm him and assured him that police were on the way.

"You're doing good, doing real good, doing perfect," the dispatcher told him. "Your mom's going to be so proud of you."

Police quickly nabbed the two suspects shortly after they ran from the house.

Back in the day when we were growing up, there was a separate telephone number for each type of emergency situation. If there was a fire, you called the fire department; to report a crime, you called the police; and for a medical emergency, you called an ambulance or the family doctor.

The 911 central number has streamlined that process but it still takes cool, calculated and quick thinking individuals on both ends of the call to resolve an issue or defuse a dangerous event.

As these latest incidents show, our Georgia school employee and home boy in Texas proved to be the right persons at the right time to prevent potentially explosive events.

By Jim Zbick

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