In 2013, a school bookkeeper named Antoinette Tuff bravely diverted a mentally ill gunman who threatened her school in Decatur, Georgia. The astonishing true story was retold in Bishop T.D. Jakes' production "Faith Under Fire", which premiered Saturday on Lifetime. The Christian Post interviewed both Toni Braxton, who portrayed Antoinette Tuff in the new movie, and Tuff herself on the courage and faith it took to get through this situation.
At the time of the event, the then-20-year-old gunman Michael Hill entered McNair Elementary School threatening to kill everyone with the AK-47 in his hand.
It was then that Antoinette Tuff, a single mom, bookkeeper, and Christian, met the young man who'd gone off his medication for his mental illness, showing him the love of God while saving hundreds of kids and teachers.
Tuff's memoir Prepared for a Purpose tells the whole story. It was this memoir that led to T.D. Jakes' production for "Faith Under Fire".
"I was an ordinary person who God decided was going to be an extraordinary person that day. He chose my name and my number to be able to change the destiny of not only my life but that gunman's life too. He saved my life just like I saved his life," Tuff told The Christian Post in an interview.
"No matter what, y'all have a purpose in life. One day our number is going to be called and our name. You have to ask yourself, 'Am I going to be ready?'" Tuff said. She hopes that those who view the film will walk away with a new awareness of their purpose.
Tuff was deemed a hero by all, even being personally contacted by President Barack Obama, but she admits she felt all the same fear that anyone would in that situation.
"On the inside, I was actually screaming [and] very afraid because you have this gunman standing in front of you, letting you know that he had not taken his medicine and he was unstable in all of his ways," Tuff recounted.
"So I was terrified on the inside, but God has a way of calming you down when you don't know that He's calming you down," she said.
Looking back and relistening to the 911 call recording, Tuff knows with all of her heart that it was God. She was level-headed through a near crisis, and there's nothing else she would attribute her peace to than God.
Portraying this courageous woman in a movie would be no easy task, but Antoinette Tuff was thrilled to find out that she would be played by the seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer Toni Braxton in T.D. Jakes' new movie.
"I was a little scared to do it because it was a heavy role, I'm not going to lie," Braxton admitted at the New York City screening.
However, "When Bishop Jakes wanted me to do the role I was flattered and excited," she told The Christian Post. "Bishop Jakes is like our uncle. He gets our family together when we're out of shape, he smacks us back together." She was encouraged by Jakes and her friends and family, and obviously, Braxton took the role, preparing by watching interviews and listening to the 911 call constantly.
Bishop T.D. Jakes knew both Braxton and Tuff before the movie was produced. Tuff serves under Jakes in ministry and trusted that her beloved pastor would showcase faith in the movie, which was important to her. At the time of the incident, Tuff got to tell the gunman that he was loved, and in the midst of what could've been a horrific moment, she ministered to the young man who she saw as "crying out for help."
Tuff, Jakes, and Braxton all felt the importance of portraying the faith aspect of this film, and they pray it inspires all viewers to live courageous, purpose-filled lives.