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August 23rd, 2013
08:18 AM ET

School Shooting Heroes Meet

Just days after a school bookkeeper in Georgia averted what could have been another tragic school shooting, she met with the 911 dispatcher who was on the line during the entire harrowing experience.

Antoinette Tuff stayed shockingly calm as a man with a gun invaded her school. But helping to keep her cool was 911 operator Kendra McCray, on the other end of the phone while Tuff negotiated with the suspected gunman and convinced him to step down.

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

Like everyone else who have since heard the recording of that emergency call, McCray said she was in awe of Tuff.

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

McCray said she was “terrified” for Tuff while she was face to face with a mentally unstable gunman.

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

Tuff says the scariest moment was when she watched the man methodically load his gun.

"He had bullets everywhere, on top of magazines,” Tuff described. “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.

"He just wanted to let me know him and his wife and his family is very proud of what I did and everybody wanted to thank me."

Crediting her faith, Tuff said she believes her role was part of a heavenly plan, to help somebody in need.

“The suspect had walked in with an assault rifle ready to kill,” Savidge says, “but in the end was no match for a book keeper armed with love backed by a dispatcher who was her life line.”

Below, watch how the scene played out for TUff at the Georgia elementary school she saved from a potential massacre.

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