Gun in hand, Michael Brandon Hill entered Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, in Decatur, Ga. and told the clerk Antoinette Tuff, "I am going to die today." Tuff kept calm during the hour-long ordeal including during an exchange of gunfire between Hill and law enforcement. She talked to him, listened to him, and eventually got him to surrender.
As a mom of three in elementary grades, I have thought a lot about the "what ifs." I have mapped out my route and back-up route that will get me to the school the fastest. I have sized up my kids' classrooms and their teachers to see how confident I am in their abilities if push came to shove. To calm fears after the tragedy at Sandy Hook last year, I even convinced my kids that their principal is a karate ninja master and that no one would ever mess with her or her students.
But this week makes it obvious that the first-line of defense for kids wouldn't be the occasionally roaming security guard, it wouldn't be the principal or the teacher, it wouldn't be the custodians or volunteer dads; my kids' real lifeguards would be the front office staff.
These are the same ladies that we often don't give the time of day. We may wave at them as we walk past to get to where we are actually going. We often don't know their names, we don't show them any appreciation, and we probably toss more complaints at them than just about anyone else on campus.
This year that will change for me. As school starts back I will rain love on that under-appreciated front office staff. I won't do this because I want my kids to get extra attention or because I think it might earn me brownie points; I'll do this because these staffers are quite literally using their bodies and minds as the shield of protection against the world for every child on that campus. We should show our appreciation for that.
And as for Ms. Tuff... I think that woman deserves a medal, but she'll have to settle for a nice piece of fan mail from a mom in another state who thoroughly appreciates her being who she is.