The three American heroes who stopped a terrorist attack on a train on Friday were honored with France’s highest award for bravery.
Spencer Stone, 23, Alek Skarlatos, 22, and Anthony Sadler, 23, were presented with the Legion of Honor in Paris on Sunday. Each received a kiss on the cheek from French president François Hollande.
The Americans, who are childhood friends from Sacramento, California, were touring Europe when they jumped into action to subdue a heavily-armed man on a train from Amsterdam to Paris.
The gunman, identified as 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani, allegedly had an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. He is being questioned by French counterterrorism police outside Paris.
The heroes spoke at a news conference as U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley beamed beside them.
She said: “We often use the word hero, and in this case it is appropriate. They are truly heroes.”
According to Sadler, the trio was initially sitting in a different carriage, but a bad WiFi connection led them to get up and move to what became the scene of the attack.
Spencer Stone, a trained EMT and an Airman First Class in the U.S. Air Force, said that the terrorist was "ready to fight to the end," adding: "So were we."
Sadler said: “At that time he was cocking the AK-47. So it was either do something or die."
Another American, professor Mark Moogalian, was the first person to grab the man.
Moogalian was shot in the back of the neck but is expected to recover. Stone, whose thumb was nearly cut off by the terrorist's box cutter, gave Moogalian first aid on the train and has been credited with saving his life.
Moogalian’s family released a statement that said: “When the gunman came out of the bathroom another person engaged him and was thrown to the side, Mark then jumped in and after a struggle was able to get the AK-47 away.
"Mark then turned around to get his wife out of harm’s way but did not realize the gunman still had a pistol. He shot Mark in the back, the bullet went through his lung and exited his collarbone.
"When Mark went down that’s when the gunman retrieved the AK 47. Mark was able to get to another car and that's when other rushed in.”
Skarlat, who has been in the Army National Guard for three years, returned from a nine-month tour in Afghanistan in July. Sadler is a senior at California State University, Sacramento, where he's studying kinesiology.
"I trust both my friends very much," Stone said. "If it wasn't for them I would have been dead."
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