One serves in the Air Force, another recently served in Afghanistan in the National Guard, another is studying physical therapy in California — and all three Americans are being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman they happened to encounter on a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris.
Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone remained hospitalized Saturday after being stabbed in the attack Friday night as the train traveled through Belgium, though the Pentagon said the injury was not life-threatening.
French Interior Minister Cazeneuve said the Americans "were particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances," and that "without their sangfroid we could have been confronted with a terrible drama."
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, was traveling with childhood friends Spencer Stone, of Carmichael, California, and Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass. Sadler told The Associated Press that they saw a train employee sprint down the aisle followed by a gunman with an automatic rifle.
"As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, 'Spencer, go!' And Spencer runs down the aisle," Sadler said. "Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a boxcutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious."
The best part: "the three of us beat him until he was unconscious." That must have been a very satisfying beatdown, especially after the jerk cut one of them. The Moroccan is lucky that's all they did.
I grew up in Carmichael, California, it's a suburb of Sacramento, and at least when I was there it was populated by all American types like this. Sounds like it hasn't changed.
Skarlatos' step-mother Karen Skarlatos spoke with her step-son immediately after the incident. "He sounded fine, but he was intense — he sounded like he had just thwarted a terrorist attack."
Now tell me this isn't the statement of a proud mama:
"Alek and Spencer, they're big, brave, strong guys and they decided they were going to tackle him. And they did," she told the AP from Oregon. "Spencer got a couple good slices on him. But they were able to subdue him while the train was still moving."
The mayor of the French city of Arras praised the "extraordinary reflexes" of the Americans and awarded them special medals overnight.
This kind of mettle makes me proud to be an American. Here are two of the three, with the guy on the left being Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler on the right. They do look like "big, brave, strong guys," as Alek's mom described them.