The trailer for Lifetime's Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story promises a tense tale of one woman's bravery in a seemingly impossible situation. After a shooter breaks into an elementary school where Antoinette Tuff (played by Toni Braxton) works, she has to talk him down from the edge in the hopes of saving herself and others. And if that story seems familiar, there's a good reason for it: Faith Under Fire is based on a true story.
Airing on January 27, Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story explores a fairly recent event that was on the news just a few years ago. In 2013, a 20-year-old man named Michael Brandon Hill entered the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Atlanta. He had an AK-47-style rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition, according to CBC News. He had already exchanged fire with officers surrounding the school, but the elementary-aged students were evacuated without injury. However, Tuff (who was the school bookkeeper) found herself alone in the front office with Hill.
She ended up discussing what happened, with co-writer Alex Tresniowski, in the memoir Prepared for a Purpose: An Inspiring True Story of Faith, Courage, and Compassion in a Crisis. But now it's getting the live action treatment on Lifetime.
Tuff was able to prevent further violence by talking to Hill and sharing details of her own life with him. CBC News reported that Tuff told Atlanta's WSB-TV that she wanted to stop Hill from continuing into the hall or school itself by keeping him engaged in conversation. According to CNN, Hill told her that he was off his medication for an unspecified mental disorder and in turn, she told him about her recent divorce, her disabled son, and her own struggles with mental illness. A 911 call captured some of what Tuff said to Hill.
It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know 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 going to be OK. I thought the same thing, you know, 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.
Tuff's calm demeanor and quick thinking may have prevented a major tragedy from occurring. In an interview with The Daily Beast, she attributed that to her faith in God, which she rediscovered following her divorce and subsequent depression. It was her own struggles that allowed her to understand how Hill was feeling and stop him from taking even more drastic action. "We all go through something in life and we all need someone to be an angel one day," she said. "God sent people to help me in my suicide moments, in my crazy moments, and in my unbelievable moments."
Tuff's story is remarkable for many reasons, and it makes sense that it would eventually find its way to the screen. As with any fictionalized version of a true story, there could always be a few liberties taken with the story (and it's hard to say what they might be before the movie airs), but it is based on something that truly did happen. As AJC.com pointed out, there was plenty of source material to work with, including Tuff's real 911 calls, her interviews, and her memoir.
Like many true stories Lifetime chooses to adapt, Tuff's harrowing ordeal sounds like it could be fiction, but Faith Under Fire is definitely grounded in real life.
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