Three Americans who tackled a terrorist gunman on a train to Paris saving hundreds of lives were reunited yesterday to watch Clint Eastwood’s new film about the attack.
Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos smiled proudly as they watched The 15:17 To Paris in which they play themselves.
The trio were joined by fellow survivors who hugged and thanked them for their bravery after the show at the at Warner Bros Cinema in Paris.
Reunited: US Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos (second left), US Air Force Staff Sergent Spencer Stone (centre) and actor Anthony Sadler (second right) at the screening
Alek Skarlatos and Christopher Norman share an embrace as they meet in Paris cinema
Embracing the survivors: Mark Moogalian, Spencer Stone, Isabella Moogalian, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos
US Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos (left), US Air Force Staff Sergent Spencer Stone (centre), Anthony Sadler right
They included British businessman Chris Norman, 62, who helped subdue the gunman during the attack on 21 August 2015.
He was seen embracing the trio who gave a short speech before the start of the film which comes out on February 8.
The movie traces the boyhood friends’ childhood and adult lives up to the time when they boarded a train from Amsterdam to Paris as part of a trip around Europe.
Suspected terrorist Mr El-Khazzani, who is now is awaiting trial in France, got on the train at Brussels armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, 270 rounds of ammunition a pistol, a bottle of petrol, a box-cutter and a hammer.
The three heroes said a few words ahead of the screening in the Paris cinema Monday
Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos watch The 15:17 to Paris in which they play themselves
The film traces the boyhood friends’ childhood and adult lives up to the time when they boarded a train from Amsterdam to Paris as part of a trip around Europe
Anthony Sadler speaks alongside his fellow American heroes ahead of the Paris screening
Mark Moogalian, Spencer Stone, Isabella Moogalian, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, attend the film promotion of The 15:17 to Paris
When he tried to fire his gun, it jammed and he was tackled by four passengers, including two off-duty American servicemen and one American actor.
After a struggle in the train, the group beat him unconscious and tied him up for police to arrest him.
In the wake of the attack, Staff Sergeant Spencer Stone said that without the help of friends Anthony Sadler and US Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos, they would all have died in the attack.
‘Everyone had a role,’ he told GQ magazine. ‘That’s one thing I want to emphasize: It was a team effort.
Spencer Stone (pictured as he emerged from the central hospital in Lille, France, wearing bandages and a sling a day after tackling a terrorist down) was hailed as a hero
Staff Sergeant Stone said that without the help of friends Anthony Sadler (right) and US Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos (left) they would all be dead
‘It feels sometimes like people want to boost me up to be the biggest hero in the room. But it’s not like that. I might have been the first one up, but if I’d been the only one up, I’d be dead.’
Spencer described how he had fallen asleep on the train, only to wake up to screams and see a man holding an assault rifle.
That is when the trio decided they had to ‘do something or die’.
‘I just wanted to survive and for my friends and everyone else on the train to survive,’ he said.
Remembering back to his old football days, Spencer charged the gunman ‘fully expecting to get mowed down, pumped full of bullets.’
It was only later the airman discovered the bullet had a bad primer and so wouldn’t fire.
Stone later admitted it had been an ‘easy decision.’
Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler are seen with President Obama in September 2015 who praised their bravery
‘We recognized right away what was about to happen, and the choice was either get up right now and go down in a blaze of glory and make my family proud of me, or wait to get shot,’ he told GQ.
‘It’s like if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff over a pit of boiling lava and someone’s trying to throw you in. You know you’re going to die, but are you going to just let him push you off? No, f*** that. You’re going to try to fight him.’
Stone described how he had tackled the gunman and put him in a choke hold.
I might have been the first one up, but if I’d been the only one up, I’d be dead.
‘There wasn’t really a lot of thinking,’ he told The Los Angeles Times. ‘I just got up and went and tackled him. We fought. Alek and Anthony ran up and helped me subdue him.’
‘He had a box cutter and he started to go at me with that. He was ready to fight to the end, so were we.’
Stone said that Skarlatos had grabbed his AK-47 and tried to shoot the gunman, later arrested and identified as Ayoub El Khazzani, but the weapon would not fire – much to the relief of Stone who was standing right behind and would likely have been blasted too.
‘He let go and we started punching him all three of us and Alek hit him in the head with a pistol,’ he continued at a news conference at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris just days after the incident.
US serviceman Spencer Stone answering reporters’ questions at the US embassy in Paris after the attack
Pat on the back for a hero: US ambassador to France Jane Hartley with (l-r) Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos at the press conference – two days after a 25-year-old Moroccan opened fire on the train
‘At that time he was cocking the AK-47,’ said Sadler, a California college student, from the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris. ‘So it was either do something or die…In times of crisis…do something. Hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything.’
‘I was thinking about survival.’
Stone, who was promoted to Staff Sergeant for his bravery, was waiting for Khazzani to fall unconscious in the choke hold when he said he felt something get dragged across his neck.
‘Alek is screaming, ‘He’s got a knife, he’s got a knife!’ I look down at my thumb and it’s cut to the bone, and I’m thinking, I can’t believe you just did that to my finger. You a**hole.’
The trio were joined by British businessman Chris Norman, 62, who helped subdue the gunman while Spencer said they just ‘kept hitting him until he was unconscious’.
Norman then secured cable ties from the other passengers and was able to tie up Khazzani ready for the police.
The 26-year-old Moroccan national, who was known to security services, got on the train in Brussels and attempted his attack soon after crossing the French border
Mr El-Khazzani fought for the Islamic State group in Syria and has told investigators that he was acting under the guidance of Paris attacks’ organiser Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
He was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, 270 rounds of ammunition a pistol, a bottle of petrol, a box-cutter and a hammer when he boarded the train, according to French prosecutors, who said he intended to carry out a mass slaughter.
French president François Hollande personally awarded the four heroes France’s top honour, the Legion d’honneur.
Stone’s thumb, which was almost completely severed by the gunman, was reattached during his hospital stay in Lille. He thanked the French doctors, police officers and others.
The heroes dismissed claims by El Khazzani’s lawyers that he was not a terrorist and was only planning to rob the passengers.
French forensic police officers wearing protective suits inspected the crime scene on bord the Thalys train following the incident
THWARTED GUNMAN SCOFFS AT ACCUSATIONS HE’S A TERRORIST
The thwarted train gunman Ayoub El Khazzani has laughed at accusations he was trying to carry out a terrorist attack on the Amsterdam to Paris express, his lawyer has claimed.
Morocco-born El Khazzani, 26, says he does not see why his actions on the Thalys train on Friday have caused such an outcry and insisted that he was only interested in ‘robbing the passengers’.
His lawyer, Sophie David, said the gunman appeared ‘very, very thin and very haggard’ when she met with him at a police station in Arras, northern France.
Meanwhile, the suspect’s father defended him as a ‘good boy’ today, and insisted that he would never want to kill anyone.
Suspect: Ayoub El-Khazzani (above), 26, has denied accusations that he was trying to carry out a terrorist attack
Scrap dealer Mohamed Khazzani, 64, broke down in tears as he recalled the moment police knocked on the door of his rundown flat to tell him his son had been arrested with a Kalashnikov on board a packed Paris-bound high-speed train.
The greying father-of-six, who lives in the southern Spanish port city of Algeciras after emigrating from his native Morocco, told MailOnline: ‘They’re saying Ayoub is a terrorist but I just cannot believe what I am hearing.
‘I haven’t eaten anything or slept since the police came round yesterday.
‘They asked me if I knew where he was and when I said France they told me he had got himself into serious trouble and explained what had happened.
‘I’m still in shock and haven’t even told my wife Zahara yet who is in Morocco visiting relatives and won’t be back until later this week.’
He added: ‘There was no work for him here and it’s the only reason he went [to France].
Arrest: The suspected gunman was held on the platform (above) of the station in Arras in France so police could arrive and detain him
‘You should ask them why they’re doing that to young people, selling them empty promises and then dumping them on the street.’
Speaking in broken Spanish, he added: ‘My son a terrorist? The only terrorism he is guilty of is terrorism for bread because he hasn’t got enough money to feed himself properly.’
Mr Khazzani spoke out from his flat on the fifth floor of a dilapidated eleventh-floor tower black in the rundown Algeciras neighbourhood of El Saladillo.
He admitted he squats in the grubby three-bed apartment, which he was said was owned by a bank after the previous owner was evicted.
‘I work day and night trying to make ends meet and this is how I live.
‘My wife is away at the moment with one of my three daughters but the other two who are aged 15 and 17 still live here.
‘Ayoub lived in Algeciras for a year and a half before moving to France.
‘His older brothers Imran and Suleiman live in Morocco which is where my wife and I as well as Ayoub were born.
‘Ayoub was religious and never smoked or drank alcohol.’
He finished: ‘It’s as if Ayoub is dead now. I know I’ll never see him again now. I’m sure he’ll go to jail for a long time.
‘Now I just want to try to get on with my life and not be bothered any more.
‘This is the first and last time I will be speaking about this.’