American student who helped thwart France terror attack says he’s happy to be home

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

American who helped thwart train attack arrives home.

After days of crushing media attention, hometown hero Anthony Sadler appeared publicly for the first time since returning to the United States during a news conference at Sacramento City Hall on Wednesday, saying the entire experience has been overwhelming. “It feels good to be back on American soil – especially in Sacramento,” said Sadler, who helped foil a terrorist attack on a high-speed train bound for Paris last week.

The American trio who took down a suspected terrorist aboard a Paris-bound train first bonded as little boys – chasing each other with toy guns and playing football.Anthony Sadler, 23, was seen departing his plane in Sacramento four days after taking action to prevent what could have been a mass shooting en route from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday. — One of the three Americans who were hailed as heroes after stopping an gunman on a train heading to Paris returned home to Sacramento on Tuesday night. He and childhood friends Alek Skarlatos, 22, a National Guard member, and US Air Force airman Spencer Stone, 23, confronted 26-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El-Khazzani after he wounded four on the train. Stone and Skarlatos have been best buddies since they were 7-year-old boys in the same Christian elementary school and living next door to each other in Carmichael, California, Skarlatos’ stepmother, Karen, tells PEOPLE.

The Sacramento State University student, dressed in black shorts and a gray sweatshirt, was carrying a black backpack as the family walked into the tarmac with the rest of the passengers. Sadler does not qualify for the Airman’s Medal or Soldier’s Medal, the awards for which his friends—Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone of California and Army Spec.

The family didn’t speak to reporters at the airport and they hadn’t arrived to their home on a tree-lined street of the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, where TV trucks and a cluster of reporters waited outside Tuesday night. The 11-seat plane carrying the special passengers arrived at Paris–Le Bourget Airport, located northeast of the city, at about 7:30am local time on Monday. Later, after Sadler went off to college, Skarlatos deployed to Afghanistan with the National Guard and Stone was stationed in Portugal with the Air Force. “They were good boys, but they got into their fair share of mischief – you know, three boys,” Anthony Sadler Sr. says with a laugh. “But nothing too dramatic.” Those decorations and their Navy Department equivalent, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, go to service members who display heroism away from the battlefield.

He, along with Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos who are both originally from Carmichael, were riding the train Friday when an man came into their train car and showed a weapon. On Tuesday the US Army announced that Skarlatos would receive Soldiers Medal, its highest award for events ‘not involving actual conflict with an enemy’, according to KATU. The medals have been awarded in the past for everything from running into dangerous waters to save struggling swimmers to rushing into a burning building to pull out survivors. Stone is being considered for the Airman Medal, the Air Force’s highest noncombat award, and may also be considered for a Purple Heart because of his wound.

Honors for the Americans also included being invited to see the Paris premiere of the hip-hop film Straight Outta Compton after running into actors from the film while out in the city. It was created in the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and recognizes “government employees and private citizens who perform an act of heroism or sacrifice, with voluntary risk of personal safety in the face of danger, either on or off the job,” according to a 2010 Defense Department news release. A French prosecutor said on Tuesday that El-Khazzani watched a video of ‘Islamic preaching,’ which encouraged ‘violent acts’ shortly before he was foiled in his attack by the four passengers.

French authorities identified the gunman as Ayoub El-Khazzani, 26, a Moroccan with ties to radical Islamist groups and who may have traveled to Syria recently. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, local law enforcement and Columbia Sportswear CEO Timothy Boyle, who provided a private jet for the trip back to United States. “There are many back stories that could be told,” the elder Sadler said. “We were regular people five days ago. His lawyer, Sophie David, said on French TV that her client claims he was just homeless and hungry and wanted to rob the train and then jump out a window.

The father asked for privacy while the family comes to grips with the media attention. “Anthony desires to share his story with the entire nation,” he said, adding that he would soon designate a spokesman for the family. “You wonder if in a situation like that you would stand up and do something. Khazzani has denied any links to terrorism, but his Facebook page, since taken down, included numerous messages depicting political anger and conservative Islam. California State University, Sacramento, officials this week trumpeted Sadler’s connection to the school, honoring all three men on the school’s giant electronic billboard. Sadler said in an interview afterward that Stone was the “real hero” because he was the first to tackle Khazzani and was injured in the ensuing struggle. Stone’s thumb was nearly severed in the tussle with the alleged terrorist who was also armed with a handgun and box cutter. “It feels real good, I can’t lie, but, I don’t know how to word this, I don’t want to get a big head about it,” said Stone, who also helped triage a French passenger who had been shot.

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