Morrow was one of those parents and held his 10-year-old daughter close to him during an interview after the two were reunited.
"My stomach was in my throat for the whole time until I saw her face on the bus," he said.
His daughter, a fifth-grader, told The Associated Press that a voice came over the intercom saying school was under lockdown and instructed students to get under tables. She said her teacher told the class to sing and pray.
"There were a lot of girls crying, I was feeling scared but I didn't cry. I was just nervous," she said.
Tuff called WSB-TV as it was happening to say the gunman asked her to contact the Atlanta station and police. WSB said during the call, shots were heard in the background. Assignment editor Lacey Lecroy said she spoke with Tuff, who said she was alone with the man and his gun was visible.
"It didn't take long to know that this woman was serious," Lecroy said. "Shots were one of the last things I heard. I was so worried for her."
Complicating the rescue, bomb-sniffing dogs alerted officers to something in the suspect's trunk and investigators believe the man may have been carrying explosives, Alexander said. Officials cut a hole in a fence to make sure students running from the building could get even farther away to a nearby street, he said.
The school has about 870 children enrolled. The academy is named after McNair, an astronaut who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, according to the school's website.
As they waited for their children, many of the parents said they were surprised that anyone could get into the school. Many of them recounted having to ring a buzzer at a door with a camera to get in to drop off or pick up their children.
Debra Hayes, a volunteer lunchroom worker at the school whose granddaughter is a fifth-grader there was leaving the building at 12:40 p.m. after finishing her work. She stopped in the office to check out and saw a young man talking to a secretary but didn't see a gun, she said.
"He said that he was in here because he wanted to speak to an officer. He was not going to hurt no staff, no students or no parent," she said. She didn't think anything was out of the ordinary.
Hayes wished the staff a nice day and walked out. As she was walking away toward home, she heard three gunshots and then sirens.
"I don't know what I'd walked into," she said.