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Teacher: Students who stopped attack are 'heroes'

Debbie Schultz (center) holds hands with students Austin Hutchinson (left) and John Bailey (right). Her other students can be seen in the background.
Debbie Shultz holds hands with students Austin Hutchinson (left) and John Bailey, who helped stop her estranged husband from attacking her with a knife.

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CONYERS, Georgia (CNN) -- When teacher Debbie Shultz's estranged husband entered her classroom and attacked her with a knife, her students pinned him down, possibly saving her life. CNN's Miles O'Brien spoke with Shultz and her students Austin Hutchinson and John Bailey.

O'BRIEN: I notice you're holding hands. Tell us about the bond that you have between teacher and student here. Kind of unusual, isn't it, Debbie?

SHULTZ: Well, it's a lot more cemented since Wednesday's incident, but we always like to conduct our classes as though we're a family. And it was our first-period Spanish II family. And boy, am I glad it was. They're heroes in every sense of the word.

And we at Heritage always knew they were heroes, but now the whole world does.

O'BRIEN: Austin, let's begin with you. Did have you ever have any hesitation, any doubt, any fear? Or was it just kind of a reflex reaction?

HUTCHINSON: At first, I was scared. And I thought, well, I could run out the door like the rest of the people, but something just told me that it wasn't right to leave her there. So I just decided to stay back and just do what I could to help, and just get the guy off of her, anything that would help.

O'BRIEN: You went after somebody with a very sharp knife. You weren't concerned about getting hurt?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I was concerned about getting hurt. But, at the time, that was really the least of my worries. It was just keeping her safe and just doing what I could.

O'BRIEN: John Bailey, same kind of thought process for you? Was it kind of just a reflex reaction?

BAILEY: No ... like Austin said, you really wanted to help your teacher in this situation. She does so much for us. And I just felt like I had to help her out.

O'BRIEN: I bet, afterwards, when you sort of thought about what transpired, it might have been even more scary for everybody. Would you go along with that?

BAILEY: Yes. It had to be very scary. But, at the same time, it was more of a shock, because you never think about going to school and something like this happening to you.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Now, you mention that, but, at this school in '99 -- and I guess you guys wouldn't have been at the school at the time, but you certainly would have heard about it.

SHULTZ: I was there.

O'BRIEN: There was a shooting there. And I know you were there, Debbie. It's unfortunate -- and we're talking about a shooting incident where six were injured at that time. And you were involved in that. Did you sort of have kind of a flashback to that moment when all this occurred, or did you have time to even process that way?

SHULTZ: I did not have time -- yes, violence affects you in a way that it's surreal. And, yes, I had the same immediate reaction. Oh, this is a joke.

But then I quickly ascertained it was not a joke and flew into action.

But I was so -- after the event was over, I said, God allows things to happen to us for a reason. And the reason, I fully believe, is not only to reveal the issues of domestic violence, but the whole sort of world got a bad rap or an impression of our school when we had our shooting. And that was an atypical instance.

These are the typical students of Heritage High School, heroes in every sense of the world. The most kind, compassionate students that you could ever find in the United States. And so what was intended for evil worked for good.

And I am so grateful, because, without them, I would not be alive.

O'BRIEN: I got to tell you, Debbie, you win the half-full award of the day. Your estranged husband comes in and tries to kill you and you're spinning this as a tale which is kind of heartwarming. I'm impressed.

SHULTZ: Well, thank you so much. I think it's due to my great faith, but, also, my students are my inspiration.

And I have always listed by the philosophy that, if you love them first and then worry about your content area second, everything will always fall into place. And so far, the last 17 years, God has blessed me. ...

I had taken out a temporary protection order on the previous Tuesday, a week prior to the event.

And the moral of that story is, a temporary restraining order or protection order, is not the way to go. I am a blessed survivor of domestic violence. And I would strongly urge any woman or man who is being persecuted to get a criminal warrant and use that as the first route, instead of a temporary protection order or a restraining order, to get a criminal warrant for stalking, criminal trespass, harassment, phone calls, e-mails, and document, document, document.

I don't care if someone is sitting in front of your house for only five minutes. Call the sheriff and go on record. Call your police department and go on record. And perhaps, had I chosen that route, although I only -- I chose the route which I was advised to take at the time. I did not know any better because it had never happened to me before.

But I'm one of the lucky ones. If this were to ever happen in my life again, I would have a second chance. And most victims of domestic violence don't have heroes surrounding them and guardian angels to save them.

And had I been 40 minutes later, had I been in the trailer by myself, I would not be telling you what the proper procedure could be.

O'BRIEN: I hope that is a little message that resonates with people, where that message is important.

Austin, do you feel like a hero?

HUTCHINSON: I don't really feel like a hero. I mean, I've been getting a lot of attention lately. But I just feel like I'm a person that just did what he had to do, just did what I thought was right. And I don't feel like anybody special. I just did anything anybody else would have done.

O'BRIEN: And, finally, John, ... Do you feel like a hero? Do you feel comfortable being called that term?

BAILEY: No. But I am glad that I was able to help her, to help save her life. But I don't feel like a hero. And I don't think I'll ever feel like a hero at this point. I was just doing what I felt was right, protecting my teacher, because she would do the same thing for us.

O'BRIEN: And, Debbie, one final thought. A's for everybody involved here?

SHULTZ: Oh, absolutely. It's a done deal.

No, actually, they already earned them. And they're going to get rewarded far beyond anything I could ever bestow on them. They're heroes.

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