August 23rd, 2013
09:42 AM ET

GA School Hero Meets 911 Dispatcher

Two days after becoming a national hero for her remarkable bravery in talking a gunman into surrendering to police, Georgia elementary school clerk Antionette Tuff has an emotional reunion with the 911 operator who heard it all.

"We made it,” Tuff said when she met Kendra McRay for the first time exclusively on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

Like everyone else who's heard the emergency call, McCray says she's in awe of Tuff.

"She is a true hero. I say that she missed her calling.”

The operator said she was “terrified” for Tuff while the bookkeeper was face to face with the mentally unstable gunman.

The dispatcher says it was as if she could see the shooter and the events unfolding through Tuff’s words.

“But their fear was never evident in the 911 call that riveted America,” reports CNN’s Martin Savidge.

“The scariest moment," Tuff says, "was watching the man methodically load the gun.”

"He had bullets everywhere, on top of magazines,” she describes. “So I knew when he made that last call that he was going to go. Because he had loaded up to go."

“Yet instead of feeling fear or anger, Tuff says she felt compassion, recalling her own personal heartbreaks, even contemplating suicide,” Savidge explains.

"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," Tuff said.

Just before she sat down with Cooper, Tuff got another surprise - a phone call from President Obama who thanked and praised her for what she did.

Crediting her faith, Tuff says, “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.”

Savidge says, Tuff and McCray are “two very remarkable women who relied on faith, they relied on each other and they became together the perfect counterweight to hate.”

Hear Tuff and McCray's 911 call in the video below.

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