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School Shooting Hero Speaks Out

Aired August 22, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, prepare to laugh, cry and be inspired by a remarkable woman, a 360 exclusive, my interview with Antoinette Tuff, who lovingly -- That's right, lovingly -- persuaded a would-be mass killer into giving himself up inside a Georgia school.

Antoinette saved a countless number of lives, kids and police officers and despite being held at gunpoint, still feels compassion for the man who could have killed her. In fact, she tells me tonight she still wants to maintain a connection with him.

My in-depth conversation with her and also tonight her first face-to-face meeting with the calm, cool 911 operator who helped her save the day.




MCCRAY: We made it.

TUFF: We did. Oh, my God.


COOPER: Made it, they did. Both ends of the most remarkable 911 call we have ever heard. Emergency operator Kendra McCray and Antoinette Tuff, bookkeeper at the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, just outside Atlanta.

Together, they prevented a likely massacre, with Kendra relaying messages to police on the scene. Antoinette was inside talking to the gunman who fired off half a dozen shots and was carrying enough ammunition to kill hundreds. He told her he was off his psychiatric medication, that he wanted to die and was ready to kill.

Calmly, sensitively and compassionately, Antoinette Tuff reached out to him and reached him, persuading him to surrender to police.


TUFF: They're coming. So just hold on, Michael. Go ahead and lay down. Go ahead and lay down. Don't put your phone -- OK. You just got your phone? OK, that's fine. Tell them to come on. OK, he just got his phone. That's all he got is the phone.



TUFF: It's just him. OK. It's just him.



TUFF: I'm going to tell you something, baby. I ain't never been so scared in all the days of my life.

MCCRAY: Me either. But you did great.

TUFF: Ooh, Jesus.

MCCRAY: You did great.

TUFF: Oh, God.


COOPER: Oh, God indeed. Antoinette talks a lot about faith tonight, because that faith saw her through. FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss calls Antoinette Tuff's performance under such pressure amazing.

President Obama is also a fan. He called her just before she sat down with me tonight. I have been looking forward to meeting her ever since I heard that remarkable tape.

And I'm very pleased to introduce Antoinette and shortly Kendra to all of you.


COOPER: It's extraordinary to hear this tape, and there is such an outpouring of people just saying how amazing you are. I just think you're incredibly heroic. And that's a word that get thrown around a lot, but you really are a hero. You really -- you saved people's lives. How did you remain so calm throughout this?

TUFF: I was actually praying on the inside.

I was terrified, but I just started praying, knowing that if I got as hysterical as I was on the inside on the outside, that he would wind up panicking.

COOPER: So inside, you were feeling hysterical?


TUFF: Oh, I was terrified on the inside. Very scared.

COOPER: We hear that at the end of the recording a little bit, where once it's finally all over, you sort of -- this flood of emotion comes out.

TUFF: Yes, because I knew then he was -- I knew that they had already captured him. So I knew at that point in time I could actually just take a breather.

COOPER: I have heard you say that your pastor had talked about being anchored in the lord. Is that something that got you through?

TUFF: Yes. He had just started this actual series that Sunday on being anchored.

And I had told my pastor -- I had told myself Monday morning that I was going to get up and start studying that morning. So I studied Monday morning and I also studied on Tuesday. And he had been talking about how you anchor yourself, not actually allowing life, the cares of the world to overwhelm you, but allowing yourself to be anchored.

COOPER: That's what it means to be anchored, to be rooted?

TUFF: To be rooted and grounded in the word. And that allows the situations that you're in dictate your actions.

COOPER: That was good timing of that sermon.

TUFF: Really good timing.


COOPER: I want us to just start -- I want to play some of the 911 recordings and get your thoughts on them.

This first excerpt we're going to play is when the gunman basically has first entered the room. Let's listen.



TUFF: I'm in the front office. Ooh, he just went outside and started shooting.


TUFF: Oh, can I run?

MCCRAY: Can you get somewhere safe?

TUFF: Yes, I have got to go. No, he's going to see me running. He's coming back. Hold on.

MCCRAY: Put the phone down. TUFF: OK. She said she's getting the police now to tell them to back off for you, OK? OK, OK. Stop all movement now on the ground. Stop all movement on the ground.


COOPER: What is it like to hear that?

TUFF: Realizing how terrified I was. And that was not his actual first entrance in the building. He had been in the building for a minute by the time that actual incident happened. He had already shot before that.

COOPER: And that's right. He left the office you were in. We heard those shots firing and then he came back in.

TUFF: That was his second time shooting.

COOPER: Second time shooting.

TUFF: Yes. He actually shot the first time in the office with me.

COOPER: That first time when he shot, did you think this could be it?

TUFF: Well, what he did is, he actually took the shot to allow me and the other person that was in there to know that this was not a game, and that he was not playing, and that he was serious. So then I knew then that it was -- I knew then it was for real and that I could lose my life.

COOPER: How did he appear to you? Did he seem -- when you first saw him, he's got this AK-47. How did he seem? What was the look in his eyes?

TUFF: Like he didn't care. And he made it clear to me multiple times that he didn't care. He knew that he was going to die that day, and he came in purposely knowing that he was going to die and take lives with him. So he let me know that from the minute that he entered the building.

COOPER: And when somebody says that to you, who is heavily armed -- later, we now know he had almost 500 rounds of ammunition with him. Did you -- what do you do? What did you think?

TUFF: When he said that, I actually was like, OK. So I just kind of started really getting afraid when he actually shot the gun, because at first I was like maybe he's just playing.

But when he shot the gun and he pointed the gun up to us, you know, up towards -- to allow us to know and made gestures with the gun, then I knew he wasn't playing. At that point in time I just started playing on the inside.

COOPER: Were you afraid that he was going to go in some of the classrooms and go after the kids?

TUFF: Well, he actually did go to the door. He went to the door leading up to when the first person actually left out, he told them to go and let everybody know that this was not a drill, that this was for real.

When that person went out, other people went out with her, because they didn't -- he didn't know that other people was in there -- was another room around the corner. And he didn't know people was there. So he started seeing all this movement. And he actually went to that door with the gun drawn to start shooting.

And the media person was there and he looked him dead in the face and started drawing his gun out. So then I started talking to him and saying, come back in, just stay in here with me. Don't go anywhere. Stay in here. It's going to be OK. Don't worry about anybody out there. You told her to go and do that, so she's doing what you told her to do.

I just started talking to him and all that, but he was unrational at that time because he was agitated with everything that was going on.

COOPER: We hear in the 911 call, at one point he's talking about wanting to shoot police officers. I want to play that part.


TUFF: He said to tell them to back off. He doesn't want the kids. He wants the police. So back off.

And what else, sir? He said he don't care if he die. He don't have nothing to live for. And he said he's not mentally stable.


COOPER: That's the last thing you want to hear somebody say when they're armed to the teeth like that. He also talked about saying that he should have gone to a mental hospital, that he was off his medication.

TUFF: Correct.

COOPER: Did that make you even more worried about who you're dealing with?

TUFF: yes, because by the time he made that statement, he had already fired all of his rounds in his gun for the first time. And I didn't know what was in the book bag at that time, but he had then got the book bag and was filling up the magazines in front of me.

COOPER: So he was reloading?

TUFF: He reloaded every magazine he had in the book bag and put them all in his pockets.

COOPER: I was amazed too how kind you were to him and how compassionate you were to him. Is that something you really felt?

TUFF: Yes, it was.

At one point, I just started feeling sorry for him. When he got to telling me that he wasn't on his medicine and everything that was going on with him, then I really began to feel sorry for him. I knew that where he was at mentally was not a good place.

But I knew that he was there for whatever particular reason that it was in life. He started talking to me and telling me that, you know, he wasn't on his medicine. He should have went to the hospital, and, you know, he hadn't taken his medicine in a while. So I knew that I wasn't actually speaking to someone that was in their right state of mind.

COOPER: I want to play that portion.


TUFF: It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know that 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.

No, you don't want that. You're going to be OK.

I thought the same thing. I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me. But look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK.


COOPER: It seems that really connected with him. Your willingness to share personal details of your own life really made an impact on him.

TUFF: Yes.

By that time, he had actually called one of his family members, and he was talking to them and then they was telling him some things and things like that, what was going on. So I knew that -- I knew how he felt. 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. But because of God's grace and mercy, it wasn't. And I knew that I could help somebody. God sent people, my pastor and people and friends and family, in my path to help me through, and I knew at that point in time that he needed me, and I was the only person there.

So I just wanted to be able to allow him to know that there was some hope and that even though what seemed to be devastating for me then, look at me now. I just opened up a brand-new business. You know, God had brought me back from what seemed to be hopeless now to hope. And I just, you know, did a grand opening, opened up a motor coach company and a travel agency and just getting ready to start doing a nonprofit kids on a move for success.

So, I looked at all that to be able to know that if I don't allow him to see what we need to do, then it's going to be hopeless for him also.


COOPER: There's so much more we talked about. We are really going to be playing this interview for most of this hour, because often in news we focus on the negative and so many people say they want to hear positive things when they happen. I just think this woman is extraordinary and has a message all of us, all of us need to hear in these difficult times.

We will also play the moment when Antoinette meets the voice on the other end of the 911 call, the operator. We reunite them for the first time, only on 360 next.


COOPER: More now of my conversation with Antoinette Tuff, perhaps the coolest, calmest person on earth, certainly in this situation precisely when and where those qualities were needed most. Even though she says she was scared inside, praying on the inside, she and the 911 operator Kendra McCray, who you're going to meet in a moment, were partners in preventing a massacre at the school where Antoinette works and was trapped with a gunman.

The interview left me with a lump in my throat more than once and a smile on my face. Antoinette seems to have that effect on a lot of people. Here's part two of the interview.


COOPER: Sometimes, people say things just to convince somebody, but I feel like you really believe it, and that authenticity, your real belief and you're using your own example I think made a big difference.

TUFF: Yes, it did.

I believed it from the heart. That's something that we had been taught in our ministry, and I owe that all to my pastor. He has actually trained us. We have had classes and he sits down and teach us how to deal with people and how to deal in desperate situations and how to pray. And we practice that at church. So, really, in all reality, all I was doing was carrying out what I'm taught every Sunday and Wednesday.

COOPER: Do you still feel compassion for him? Do you still feel sorry for this man?

TUFF: I really do. I would like to go back and visit him.

COOPER: You would like to maintain contact with him? TUFF: Yes, I would. I would like to go back and contact him and just see how he's doing, I mean, not end the relationship there, because I know that it's beyond what he sees.

He's a hurting soul, and so if any kind of way that I can help him and allow him to get on the right path, we all go through something. And I believe that God gives us all a purpose in life. And I believe he has a purpose and destiny for that young man also.

COOPER: I want to have you on my speed dial. Like, whenever I'm down, I want to talk to you. My gosh, you're great.

TUFF: Thank you.

COOPER: I want you to call me sweetie and tell me everything is going to be OK.

TUFF: It's going to be OK.


COOPER: I'm going to get a ring tone with your voice saying, "Sweetie, everything going to be OK."

TUFF: It's going to be OK.

Yes, and it is.

COOPER: It is.

TUFF: I have learned that through everything I have been through. I was actually telling God that even though it seemed like I have been through hell and back, I promised him December the 31st that if he allowed me to live, that 2013 would be heaven for me.

And so I know today that all that I went through was actually for that one perfect day. And that was to save that young man's life and to make sure that 800-and-some children and also all of our staff would be able to know that God is real. And even all of those who don't believe, they're able to see a God in action. So if I don't do anything else, I know that God was seen on that day.

COOPER: You weren't even meant to be sitting in that seat in that place, right?

TUFF: Correct.

COOPER: That's just extraordinary, that it just happened to be you.

TUFF: Right. And that's -- as a matter of fact, we just had someone that was hired in that position. And really by the time that he came in, I would have been really leaving that seat to go back to my desk. But I was actually late getting up there to relieve her, because I just got devastating news myself. And I had sat at my desk for about 10 minutes trying to not get overwhelmed by the news that I just got. And so it made me late to relieve her. And so then I -- I'm sorry.


TUFF: I got there late because I was actually meant to -- the news that I got was devastating.

And I know God had me to be late, to give that news, and to put all of that aside that I just got, to be able to help that young man, because if I had got there the time that I was supposed to get there, and actually leave the time that I was supposed to leave, she would have been there. And I would not have been there. I would have been -- relieved her and been back at my desk.

COOPER: Did you know you were capable of this?

We're all tested at times and you never know how you're going to react. Some people who think they are going to rise to the occasion, they fall. And some people who think that would run rise up and are strong in ways they never anticipated.

Did you know you would be able to be this person?


I didn't even know I had it in me. No. No. If somebody would have told me I was going to be doing that that day, I wouldn't have believed it.


TUFF: Didn't know it was in me. But God has a way of showing you what's really in you. So, no, I didn't believe that.

COOPER: Well, you must feel like anything moving forward, you can do anything. I believe you can do anything. Given -- you have been through not only in your own life and personal things devastation, but this situation. You have survived unimaginable things.

TUFF: Yes. I have this new thing that I say to myself. It's called push past the pain. My pastor's wife did that teaching in a women's ministry last year.

And she titled the message "Push Past the Pain." In spite of what adversaries and what things you may go through in life, just continue to push. And so every time things come on, I always say to myself, push past the pain. It's going to be OK. And so I know today that no matter what, I can push past the pain.

COOPER: You have given me so many things to like write down that I'm just going to tell myself in the years ahead. Push past the pain.

TUFF: Yes. You got me on speed dial. Just call me. COOPER: Sweetie, it is going to be OK.

TUFF: We will push past the pain together.

COOPER: I like that.

Was there -- for you, what was the scariest moment?

TUFF: When he was reloading the magazines, because at first I knew he had the book bag, but I didn't know what was in the book bag. I just seen him with the gun. And I didn't know -- when he opened it, I was just thinking, oh, you have just got a couple of bullets. But inside of the book bag, he had another bag. So he had bullets inside the book bag and bullets in another bag.

COOPER: Did you know how many rounds he had?

TUFF: No, but I knew it was a whole lot, because he sat there and loaded up like three magazines, changed the magazine, had bullets in his pockets, pants pockets and his jacket pockets. 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.

COOPER: When you were talking to the 911 operator, did her calmness give you strength as well?

TUFF: She was talking, but to be honest with you, he was doing so much and so unstable, I don't even remember what half she was really even saying, because I was just trying to -- because he was in the building, out of the building, going out and shooting at police, going out and trying to go out where the kids were, and just moving.

So I was talking to her. And then he would tell me to call Channel 2 news. So I was like back and forth, you know, just trying to listen to all of his demands and get on this phone with this person and the phone with that person and then trying to figure out where he was at, at all times.

COOPER: Have you talked to the 911 operator since then?

TUFF: No, I haven't. But she was real calm, though. So that probably did help me, because she was really calm.

COOPER: Do you even know her name?

TUFF: No, I don't remember. She may have -- I don't remember. It was a -- I don't even remember her name. I think she said it, though. I don't remember.

COOPER: Well, her name is Kendra McCray.


COOPER: And I actually have somebody I would like you to meet.



COOPER: Come on in.


COOPER: This is Kendra McCray.

TUFF: Oh, great.

MCCRAY: How are you?

TUFF: How are you doing?

MCCRAY: We made it.

TUFF: We did. Oh, my God.

Oh, thank you. Oh, wow. It was really a moment.

MCCRAY: It was.

TUFF: Oh, I thank you. Oh, wow. Yes.

MCCRAY: Thank you.

TUFF: Yes.

COOPER: Sit down, Kendra.

I want to talk to both of you. We have got to take a quick break, but we will be right back.



COOPER: Hey. Welcome back.

It's truly incredible that Antoinette Tuff was able to remain so calm while talking a gunman into laying down his assault weapon. Not only that. She even expressed concern about his feelings.

Now, having met her, I'm no longer surprised by that. During the entire ordeal, her link to the outside world was police emergency operator Kendra McCray.

Tonight, these great women met face to face for the first time.

Back now with our 360 exclusive interview.


COOPER: Kendra, what do you think of the job that Antoinette did?

MCCRAY: She is a true hero. I say that she missed her calling. She should have been a counselor or something.

You did so great.

TUFF: Thank you.

MCCRAY: I have never had a call where the caller was so calm and so confident in what you were saying and so personable. It was great.

TUFF: Thank you.

MCCRAY: You did a great job. You made my job a lot easier.

TUFF: Thank you.

COOPER: A whole lot easier.

TUFF: Thank you.

COOPER: Also, the situation that Antoinette was in having to listen to what this gunman was saying but also try to listen to what you're saying and kind of be the conduit between the two and also try to calm him at the same time as, you know, trying to keep yourself safe. I just -- I don't know how you did it.

TUFF: I don't either, but God. I couldn't -- I can't give the credit to even myself. That was nobody but God's grace and mercy. Because I can truly tell you I was terrified inside.

COOPER: And yet talking to you, it didn't sound like you -- that she was terrified. I was amazed how calm she was.

MCCRAY: She was very calm. And myself the same. I was terrified. Coming on that line and hearing those gunshots and you asking me those questions, should you run?

TUFF: Yes.

MCCRAY: And my hands were shaking so bad. But...

COOPER: I have such respect for 911 operators. Because you all have to remain calm and stuff that you never know what's going to be on the other end of that line.

MCCRAY: Right.

COOPER: You never know, when you pick up that phone, what the situation is going to be. I want to play just a little bit more from the 911 recording.


TUFF: We're not going to hate you, baby. It's a good thing that you've given up. So we're not going to hate you. MCCRAY: Ma'am, you're doing a great job.

TUFF: Let's do it before the helicopters and stuff like that come. You hear them? OK. Do you want to go ahead and want me to tell them to come on in now? OK. He's getting everything out of his pockets now.


COOPER: I love how you say "baby." "Nobody is going to hate you, baby." Did you know -- I mean, how did you know what to say to him? How did you know the right things to say?

TUFF: Well, to be honest with you, I didn't. While I was there, and she was talking to me and he was saying things to me, I was just praying on the inside of myself, saying, "God, what do I say now? What do I do now?" I just kept saying that on the inside, because I knew that I had no words to say. And I knew I was terrified.

That is one reason I said to her one time, "Can I run?" You know? But then I knew that if I ran, he was going to go in the hallway, and it's an open hallway. He had already had all the ammunition on him.

COOPER: And he could have gone for the kids?

TUFF: He was going to go straight to the kids, because he had already went out that door a couple times. I knew that.

COOPER: Are you typing all this information and that it's going to police?

MCCRAY: Yes. Every word that she gave me, every demand, every request, I was trying to get it in as quickly as possible, and remain calm for her.

COOPER: That's important for an operator, to remain calm for the person on the other end.

MCCRAY: Yes. If I'm calm, she's calm. She's hysterical -- or if I'm hysterical, she's hysterical.

COOPER; You don't have eyes on the scene. So you're hearing everything through Antoinette, and you're sending messages to police, but you're not exactly sure where the police location is, what they're doing, or how they're interpreting the messages.

MCCRAY: In this situation, it felt like I was there, like I could visualize what she was seeing and what she was going through. It's like I could see the gunman right there at the door. She said, "He's right here at the door." It was like I could see him through just her words.

COOPER: Did he -- did he look at you a lot? Did he -- was he kind of connecting with you a lot?

TUFF: Not in the beginning.

COOPER: Not in the beginning?

TUFF: In the beginning he wouldn't each give me his name. All he said -- kept saying was, "I'm not on my medication. I'm not stable. I'm on probation." And he told me to tell her to call the probation officer, but he wouldn't give me the probation officer's number. Told everybody to stop moving. And so in the beginning he wasn't.

So then I had to, like, say OK, what am I going to do? Because now he's getting agitated. And he really got agitated the last time he went out, because the last time that he went out, the police officers started shooting back at him. And I don't know if you remember, I asked him could I go to the bathroom.

MCCRAY: I don't recall that.

TUFF: I don't know if I -- I don't know if I hung the phone.

MCCRAY: I might have put it on hold.

COOPER: You asked him if you could go to the bathroom?

TUFF: I had to go to the bathroom so bad.

COOPER: Sorry to be laughing, but I mean, in all the things to be in your mind.

TUFF: I mean, so bad. And I was just sitting there literally shaking I had to go to the bathroom so bad.

COOPER: Is that the real reason you were shaking?

TUFF: I mean, I was just shaking so bad. And he had just went out there to shoot at the policemen, and they were shooting back at him. And the bullets was coming from everywhere. And I said to him, "Come back in here right now. Come on back in. Come back in here. Don't worry about it. I said come back in here, we're both going to be safe." Because I said, "Bullets don't have no name. And if they shoot you, they're going to shoot me. So come back in here, we're going to work this out."

So he came back in...

COOPER: That's amazing that you were encouraging him to come back into the room where you were.

TUFF: Yes.

COOPER: A lot of people would be happy he's out of the room you were in. But you said come back into the room.

TUFF: Yes. Because he was firing bullets at them, and they were firing back. And I knew that they were going to kill him. And I knew that he was not in his right frame of mind, and he had all those magazines on him and I knew he was going to light it up.

COOPER: I want to play another part of the 911 tape where you have actually -- he's already relinquished his weapon. He's put everything down. Let's play that.


TUFF: OK. She said stay right there where you are. Yes. He wants to know, can he get some of his water right quick? Yes, Michael. You said Michael Hill, right? OK. Guess what, Michael? My last name is Hill, too. You know, my mom was a Hill.

He said, what are you all waiting for? What's taking them so long to come on?


COOPER: When you started telling him that your mom's name was Hill, that's when I was like -- I was like, God bless you. I mean, you were, like, having a conversation with him. Like you were just relating to him.

TUFF: I was. And my mom's maiden name is Hill.

COOPER: Well, I believe everything you said. I didn't think you were making up a word of this. I mean, I just thought -- but I just thought again, it just reflects on the kind of person you are. You didn't have to, in that very moment, you know, continue to connect with him. But you really -- I just think it says a lot about the kind of person you are.

TUFF: Well, he started getting agitated, and then he got up. OK. They don't -- that's why I started coming, because he started getting up, and I'm like OK, lay down. They coming. And he said, can he have some water? I don't think you responded back to me. I just said yes, you can have some.

MCCRAY: Because at that point, when she said that he was getting agitated, I had to put my phone on mute. I'm hollering across the room, "Hey, he's getting agitated. We need to move."

COOPER: In a situation like this, is everyone else in the room kind of listening to you?

MCCRAY: Well, there are still calls that are coming in, so other people are on calls, you know, right next to me or right across from me. They're on different calls. They're not on the same call that I'm on. So the room is -- you know, it's loud. We have call takers on one side. Then we've got the dispatchers on the opposite side. So we've got the supervisors that are -- in this situation, they were, you know, back and forth trying to make sure the information got relayed from my side to the dispatch side so they can quickly notify the police as to what I was saying. So...

COOPER: There's one more part of the tape I want to play once the police have come in and it's all -- it all is over. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay on the ground. Get on the ground. Stop moving. Do not move.

TUFF: It's just him.

Let me tell you something, baby, I ain't never been so scared in all the days of my life.

MCCRAY: Me either. But you did great.

TUFF: Oh, Jesus. Oh, God.

MCCRAY: You did great.

TUFF: Oh, God.


COOPER: You can really hear there, I mean, the strain that this put on you.

TUFF: Oh, yes.

COOPER: That moment when the police finally came in and he was taken out, what -- what goes through your head? What goes through your heart then?

TUFF: I realized then that they actually -- because when they came in, they came in with guns when he told them not to come in with. So once they came in with the guns, because now remember, his gun and all his weapons were not too far from him, and so when they came in, I was like, "OK, Lord, don't let him move. Don't let him get up and go get that gun."

And so by the time they all just swarmed around him and realized he didn't have anything, because I told him to put his hands, you know, behind his back and all that, behind his head so they would know that he didn't have anything. And when I seen that police officer put their hands on him, you know, and they were all surrounding him, I knew I could just breathe.

COOPER: And go to the bathroom.

TUFF: Yes. And go to the bathroom. I was like, if I go to the bathroom, them bullets don't have no names on it. Nobody is going to know I'm in the bathroom.

COOPER: This is also really a teachable moment, it seems, to me, for people in how to respond in an emergency situation. Antoinette, you know, could -- this tape could be played in classes in terms of just how to remain calm and the importance of remaining calm in an emergency.

MCCRAY: Yes, and just being yourself and being personable with the person and sympathizing with the person. We get a lot of calls with people in the same condition that he's in, but a different situation. And that's what we're trained to do, to sympathize with them and keep them calm until help gets there. And no situation where we want anyone to get hurt. That was my biggest fear.

TUFF: Yes.

COOPER: As I said before, I think 911 operators have such difficult job, and I just want to thank you for what you did in this situation and what you do every day. So thank you.

MCCRAY: Thank you.


COOPER: We'll have more of our conversation next, including Antoinette's reaction to a call from President Obama. He called her just minutes before she came out to do the interview.

One other note: Antoinette has set up a GoFundMe page with proceeds going to help underprivileged kids enrich their lives through travel. It's something she believes strongly in. The Web address is Again, that's That's one word, and then lowercase F-Q-V-W. You can find the link on our Web site at or on my Twitter account, @AndersonCooper.

We'll be right back with more of Antoinette.


COOPER: Back with our 360 exclusive interview tonight. Antoinette Tuff learned in the worst possible way this week that she's a natural-born crisis counselor. When a desperate gunman stormed the school where she works as a bookkeeper, she talked him down without seeming to break a sweat. Nine-one-one dispatcher Kendra McCray helped her out. They met face to face in our studio for the first time tonight.

Just before our interview, Antoinette got a call from President Obama. We talked about what that moment was like.


COOPER: You got a call literally right before you came out here tonight.

TUFF: I did.

COOPER: Who called you?

TUFF: President Obama.

MCCRAY: Oh, wow.

COOPER: How was that? TUFF: In the makeup room. Awesome. Oh, God, it was awesome.

COOPER: What's that like when you suddenly hear the president is on the phone?

TUFF: I was like, "President Obama, it's really you." You get the call and somebody says that the president is going to call, that it's the White House. I'm like, OK.

But then you really hear the voice and you know it's the president. So it was the best voice that I could ever hear. Couldn't have a better leader in place at this time.


TUFF: I appreciate you, too. But I learned from the best. The best president in the world. No, that's me. You can't get any better when you've got a great leader in front of you.


COOPER: What did he say to you?

TUFF: He just wanted me to know that him and his wife and his family was very proud of what I had did and everybody wanted to thank me. And they were, you know, happy and glad for what I did and that it was just for me being a hero and that hopefully that one day he would get to meet me. So that was real -- that would be -- just to see his face was awesome. To hear his voice, but to see his face would be even more awesome.

COOPER: If the president wants to meet you, he'll figure out a way to make that happen.

TUFF: Yes. He figured out how to call me.

That made the night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can turn the phones now off.

COOPER: What do you think the lesson is for people? What do you want people to take away from this?

TUFF: To know that God is real. To know that it wasn't me. It wasn't nothing that I did that was so special.

COOPER: Do you not feel -- Antoinette, do you not feel like you're a hero?

TUFF: No, not really. I mean, 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. I feel like I was in the right place, and God needed me to be there to be a vessel for him.

COOPER: It's interesting, too, that even now, you're talking about helping this young man, helping this man with a gun. I mean, that's -- again, I think that says something about you.

TUFF: Yes.

COOPER: Did you know that the kids were being evacuated during all of this?

TUFF: No, no. Because what I did is he had me to get on the intercom and to let them know, you know, to give the kids -- because the time he came in, that's how you know God was in control. The time that he came in really was a dismissal time for us. One of the busiest times of the school day. So if it had been business as usual, we would have had multiple parents and multiple children in the front office trying to go home. And not one baby got hurt. That's the awesome part. Not one baby and one adult.

And that was the whole key, is to be able to have everybody come out safe and go home to their families and know that God did it all.

COOPER: You just say to me one more time, "Baby, everything is going to be OK."

TUFF: Baby, everything is going to be OK.

COOPER: Thank you so much.

TUFF: You are so welcome. So welcome.


COOPER: Baby, everything's going to be OK.

And a reminder, Antoinette mentioned her work helping underprivileged kids see a world they might otherwise miss. As we mentioned, she set up a GoFundMe page: Again,, one word, slash four one lowercase F-Q-V-W. We'll have the links on our Web page, Also my Twitter account, @AndersonCooper.

She's hoping to raise like $1,500. Hopefully, she can raise a lot more than that if folks are wanting to donate.

Let's get the latest on some of the other stories we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks has a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, deliberations today in the court-martial of admitted Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan. Hasan, who represented himself, declined to give a closing statement.

Bradley Manning says he plans to live as a woman while serving time in military prison and wants to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. The Army says it does not provide hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery.

And former NFL player Aaron Hernandez was formally indicted today on six counts, including first-degree murder, in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks.

Just ahead, Hannah Anderson speaks out about her kidnapping in her first television interview: why she doesn't consider herself a victim and more.


COOPER: Up close tonight, Hannah Anderson speaks out. Since her rescue, new details have come out, including cell phone calls that she and her abductor made to each other shortly before she disappeared. This morning on NBC's "Today Show," Hannah talked about those calls and said she thinks of herself as a survivor, not a victim. Details from Stephanie Elam, who joins us now -- Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, one thing she wanted to clear up: She knows people have been speculating about those 13 text messages that she swapped with Jim DiMaggio the day she was kidnapped. She wanted to clear it up, and here's what she had to say.


HANNAH ANDERSON, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: The phone calls weren't phone calls. They were texts, because he was picking me up from cheer camp, and he didn't know the address or, like, where I was. So I had to tell him the address and tell him that I was going to be in the gym and not in front of the school. Just so he knew where to come get me.


ELAM: She also got choked up remembering her mother and her brother and having to prepare herself for the memorial that's going to happen here on Saturday.

And one other thing I want to mention to you, Anderson, and I just spoke with the aunt of Jim DiMaggio. She says that she believes her niece, the family member that's asking for the DNA test to be done to find out if Jim DiMaggio is actually the father of Hannah and Ethan, she thinks that she thinks that niece is just after the money because she's mad she's not getting the insurance policy that Jim has left to Hannah's paternal grandmother. So another interesting twist here in this very bizarre case, Anderson.

COOPER: We wish Hannah and her family the best, certainly. Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Before we go tonight, I just want to quickly repeat the information: the GoFundMe page Georgia's school shooting hero, Antoinette Tuff, has set up, with the donations going to help underprivileged kids through travel. It's That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.