The town of Decatur, Georgia, is like a lot of college towns. It\u2019s known for its hip downtown atmosphere, its influx of brainy students, its coffee shops, brew pubs and unique bistros. Decatur sits inside Atlanta\u2019s metropolitan perimeter but is like a whole other world\u2014a safe and sanctified landscape all its own. Decatur is a place children walk to school guided by friendly crossing guards, where a lot of folks still leave their back doors unlocked for the neighbors and where joggers, even lone women, can be seen running all hours of the day and night. You could say it\u2019s a healthy town, American and Southern, which means that racially speaking, it\u2019s a relatively diverse place. Though even in Decatur, tensions can run high around differences. Still, one woman recently made national news when she chose to reach across a seemingly insurmountable gap\u2014race, age, convictions\u2014and calmed a would-be killer, convincing him to turn himself over to police before any real damage was done. Her gentle words and empathic nature somehow stopped this man from massacring children\u2014any of 870 elementary school students at risk of being gunned down by the AK-47-style assault rifle he had brought into their school. An Astonishing 911 Call Tuff is a bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Learning Academy. On Aug. 20, 2013, Michael Brandon Hill, who is bipolar and schizophrenic, reportedly walked into the school, bypassing the buzzer used by faculty to allow only certain individuals in, with a lethal weapon and 500 rounds of ammunition. Hill had allegedly opened fire on police\u2014firing off at least six shots\u2014and then proceeded to give Tuff instructions to relay to the police with the help of a 911 dispatcher. In the 11-minute recording of the 911 call Tuff placed, she can be heard telling the officers to back up and to cease using their radios except for emergencies. Hill then tells Tuff that he has \u201cnothing to live for\u201d and is \u201cnot mentally stable.\u201d Hill admitted having gone off his medication. Initially, Tuff almost sounded as though she were handling a business matter\u2014deliberate and matter-of-fact, relaying the gunman\u2019s wishes to the 911 dispatcher. At around six minutes into the call, Tuff says to Hill, \u201cI can help you. Want me to help you?\u201d She\u2019s encouraging and kind, placing herself at the mercy of the shooter as an intermediary, a kind of ambassador of hope. \u201cLet\u2019s see if we can work it out so that you don\u2019t have to go away with them for a long time,\u201d Tuff says to Hill, speaking to him like a mother or an especially helpful aunt. When Hill indicates that he has made a mistake, that he should have gone to the hospital rather than coming to the school with guns, Tuff encourages him. She goes on to tell Hill, \u201cDon\u2019t feel bad, baby, my husband just left me after 33 years.\u201d Whether she\u2019s aware of it or not, she is doing what experts might do\u2014she is humanizing herself, making herself relatable to the attacker.\u00a0 At Hill\u2019s request, Tuff goes on the school intercom to let everyone know that he is sorry. \u201cWe\u2019re not going to hate you, baby,\u201d Tuff assures Hill. An elementary school bookkeeper succeeds in convincing a shooter to give himself up to police and helps him through the process. Later, the 911 dispatcher on the other end of that call would call Tuff her \u201chero\u201d and say she had missed her calling as a counselor. Courage of Convictions How is it that an unassuming Georgia bookkeeper could maintain calm and break through so many barriers in order to reach the man who\u2019d come into her workplace intent on carrying out a massacre and likely his own suicide? Hill is a 20-year-old white male with a prior felony record and a history of mental illness. The suspect\u2019s brother, Tim Hill, told CNN\u2019s Piers Morgan that his brother had been \u201ca normal kid\u201d growing up. But Michael\u2019s behavior changed as he became a teenager, growing erratic and threatening to others. At one point, the teenage Hill had set fire to his family home, with eight people sleeping inside. The fire was discovered in time and no one was harmed. On another occasion, Hill\u2019s mother awoke to find her son standing above her with a butcher knife. After the incident at the school, Tuff told ABC News in Atlanta, \u201cI just explained to him that I loved him. I didn\u2019t know his name, I didn\u2019t know much about him, but I did love him. And it was scary because I knew that at that moment he was ready to take my life along with his, and if I didn\u2019t say the right thing, then we all would be dead.\u201d A religious woman, Tuft believes God placed her in Hill\u2019s path for a reason; when others call her a hero, she credits God instead. Bipolar Disorder and Violent Crime Bipolar disorder and its impact on violent behavior have been too seldom studied. While it is known that most people who receive the diagnosis do not go on to commit violent crimes, exactly how many do is unknown. One longitudinal study released in 2010 showed that 8.4 percent of its bipolar subjects committed violent crimes. The study\u2019s authors came to the conclusion that risk assessment for violence should be made a part of the guidelines for the management of bipolar disorder. It would be unwise to ascribe Hill\u2019s alleged intentions to commit a massacre strictly to bipolar disorder or any other mental illness, but to Tuff, we can surely assign deep personal courage, rare character and a willingness to look beyond differences in order to reach the heart of another hurting human.