In August 2015, a tragedy was narrowly averted in France thanks to the courage of three American passengers and a British man who rushed to take down a heavily armed man after they heard gunfire. Two of the three men traveling together were off-duty servicemen, Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman.
”I saw a guy entering the train with an AK-47 and a handgun and I just looked over to Spencer and said, ‘Let’s go, go!’” said Skarlatos.
“Spencer got to the guy first and grabbed the guy by the neck,” Skarlatos told Sky News. “I grabbed the handgun, got that away from the guy and threw it. Then I grabbed the AK-47, which was at his feet, and started muzzle-bumping him in the head with it. Everybody just started beating the guy while Spencer held the chokehold until he went unconscious.”
When he checked the AK-47, Mr Skarlatos said it had jammed and would not have been able to fire. The cartridge for the handgun had also been dropped, he said. The American men, who are childhood friends, along with Chris Norman, were awarded medals for bravery by authorities in Arras. Norman, a British man living in France, was hurt while trying to subdue the attacker.
“I came in at the end of it all and helped get him under control,” he said at a news conference in Arras. “The guy pulled out a cutter and started cutting Spencer – he cut behind his neck and nearly cut his thumb off.”
“It’s my last year in college, I came to see my friends on my first trip in Europe and we stopped a terrorist,” said Anthony Sadler, who jumped into the fight to help along with Chris Norman. “It’s kind of crazy. I’m really proud of my friend that he just reacted so quickly and so bravely,” Sadler said.
“He was really the first one over there. Even after being injured himself, he went to go help the other man who was bleeding also. Without his help, he would have died. That man was bleeding from his neck profusely.”
The 554 passengers included French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, the star of Betty Blue and Nikita, who was lightly wounded breaking glass to sound the alarm. In an interview with Paris Match magazine, Mr Anglade said train staff entered a private cabin and locked it when they heard gunshots, leaving the passengers alone.
“I thought it was the end, that we were going to die, that he was going to kill us all,” he said.
“I really could see us all dying because we were all prisoners in that train, it would have been impossible to escape from that nightmare.”
The American men and Mr. Norman were awarded medals for bravery by authorities in Arras.