How tourists saved passengers in France

Train was going to Paris. Passengers were calm and enjoyed the travel. Suddenly, one passenger realized that man with the backpack is acting suspicious… Spencer Stone woke up by the mayhem. Crew members were running scared. After attacker was pacified, Spencer Stone was saving wounded Mark Moogalian with Anthony Sadler assistance.

True story. On August 21, 2015 train Thalys 9364 from Amsterdam was heading to Paris[1]. Passengers were mostly calm and enjoyed their travel. Crew members were on their stations dealing with everyday routine. That was a high-speed train and the journey from on capital to other takes about 3.5 hours, but that day was about to be different.

In that day among the passages were three American citizens who visited Europe in that time and wanted to see as much sights as they could during short amount of time. It seemed that travel was going as scheduled. Two of them Spencer Stone – a member of United States Air Force (USAF)[1], and college student Anthony Sadler decided to take a nap, while third one Alek Skarlatos – former Army National guardsman was fully up and enjoyed the trip.

The train already crossed the border of France and was on his way to Paris. Some of the railroad cars were empty because in that day there were not so many passengers as usually. Meanwhile, one of them was heading to the bathroom and had a backpack with him. People didn’t pay too much attention to bearded man who walked though the car. His name was Ayoub el-Qahzzani – the 26-year-old Moroccan national, who lived in Spain from 2007 to 2014. Local authorities kept an eye on him after he was promoting jihad and was connected with drugs trafficking[2].

Outside the train the scenery was beautiful and some of the travelers were fascinated by it, while for those who traveled a lot it was just the view from the window. Suddenly, one passenger realized that man with the backpack spent some time in the bathroom, which was unusual… After some time, when the train was passing Oignies, Pas-de-Calais (France), the man with the backpack came out armed with automatic rifle AK-47, also known as Kalashnikov[3].

In that moment Frenchman was going to the toilet as well. After he saw armed man, he tried to neutralize him with the bare hands, but fell to the floor. Second passenger Mark Moogalian – a 51-yers old professor of the Sorbonne[1] tried to take out the riffle and got shot to the neck. The injury was serious, as bullet went though. He had no other choice but to play dead. Another bullet ricocheted the conductor. After that the riffle malfunctioned.

Shots were fired. No one really knew what bearded man with the backpack and AK-47 had in mind, but situation got life-threatening for all passengers. Many of them though that they are going to die…

Veteran Alek Skarlatos for a few milliseconds didn’t believe that he’s heard gun fire, and then he realized that his worst suspicions were real and vivid. Spencer Stone woke up by the mayhem[4]. Crew members were running scared. Until that time Anthony Sadler was still asleep but rush and noise woke him up.

Alek Skarlatos decided to get him and yelled it to Spencer Stone. In the moment he was hesitating a little and wasn’t sure was his idea good or not, but after he saw Spencer going to the gunman, he followed him[5]. They didn’t know that AK-47 is no more functional[6]…

A member of USAF took huge risk and attacked man with a gun. It appeared that attacker had an office knife, known as box cutter. He injured Spencer multiple times. His friend Alek acted rapidly and neutralize him with riffle’s shoulder stock. Two more passengers Chris Norman and another Frenchman came to help. After attacker was pacified, Spencer Stone – trained EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) was saving wounded Mark Moogalian with Anthony Sadler help.

On August 22, 2015 United States President Barack Obama called them personally and thank for what they’ve done[7].

On August 24, 2015 French President François Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve honored brave men, who stood up and protected 554 passages. They got National Order of the Legion of Honour, established by Napoleon Bonaparte – a medal that is the highest decoration in France[3].

How did this happened that European Union is so unprotected and Americans risked their lives to save people? The answer is easy. First, it’s because Americans traditionally have can-do spirit that found the nation. Second, these men were trained soldiers and student was sharp and clever. Third, in Europe because of individualism and selfishness many people are “trained” to be afraid of danger and run away. Well, those two things are natural, but in some countries it’s quite fashionable. Forth, in western European countries politicians think they are safe just because it’s European Union, but what they don’t see that there is an uncivilized threat in civilized time. Firth, sadly in some societies bravery is not a value anymore. This is how Europe changed.


[1]        “2 U.S. service members overpower attacker on train in Belgium –,” CNN. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 13-Sep-2015].

[2]       M. Townsend and K. Willsher, “France train shooting: Europe on high alert after attack by armed gunman,” The Guardian, 23-Aug-2015.

[3]       “France train shooting: Hollande thanks ‘heroes’ who foiled gunman,” BBC News. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 13-Sep-2015].

[4]       “Megyn Kelly Full Exclusive Interview With The 3 American Heroes On The French Train – YouTube.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 13-Sep-2015].

[5]       A. Chrisafis, “France train attack: Americans overpower gunman on Paris express,” The Guardian, 22-Aug-2015.

[6]       A. Nossiter, “A Shot, a Glimpse of an AK-47, and U.S. Servicemen Pounced on Gunman on Train to France,” The New York Times, 22-Aug-2015.

[7]       “Obama Calls Americans Who Subdued Gunman on French Train,” WSJ Blogs – Washington Wire, 22-Aug-2015. .

[1] 65th Air Base Group, Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal.


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