SACRAMENTO, Calif. » Relatives of the three Americans who tackled and disarmed a gunman on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris say they are proud of the men and relieved they weren’t killed during those chaotic moments.
Tony Sadler said his son, Anthony Sadler, called him to describe what happened and the recognition he is receiving. He said he was first stunned and then relieved his 23-year-old son was not hurt or killed.
"I had thought that this trip, you know, going abroad and traveling for a few weeks would broaden his world view, but never did I suspect he would encounter an experience like this," Sadler told Sacramento television station KCRA.
He said his son, a senior at Sacramento State University, had planned to travel in Europe with his college friends through the end of August.
"He leaves here a young man on an excursion to broaden his world view and to have fun with his buddies, and he comes back France’s national hero," Sadler said.
"He might even meet the president of France before he leaves, so I’m still wrapping my head around that," he said, laughing.
Anthony Sadler and two Sacramento-area friends, Spencer Stone, 23, and Alek Skarlatos, 22, helped subdue Ayoub El-Khazzani, a man with ties to radical Islam who was carrying a handgun and an assault weapon Friday.
The gunman slashed Stone, a U.S. Airman, several times with a box cutter. His mother, Joyce Eskel, said her son called her from a hospital and told her the gunman also tried to shoot him twice but the weapon didn’t work.
"I’m just crying because I could’ve lost my son so easily," she told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Skarlatos’ brother, Solon, told the Los Angeles Times that his brother told him the assault rifle didn’t go off because "the cartridge was dead."
He said Alek Skarlatos, a National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan, traveled to Germany to visit relatives he’d never met. Later in the trip, he met up with Stone and Sadler in Amsterdam to watch the soccer team Ajax.
The trio almost didn’t get on the train because they considered staying another day.
"Having two military guys on the train and another guy with them, in that area, where the gunman got on, it’s almost luck that they were on it," Solon Skarlatos said. "It’s unlucky that they were at that incident, but lucky for everyone else that they were the ones who were there at that particular time and that everything happened the way it did."
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown saluted Skarlatos in a statement Saturday.
The governor said that Alek Skarlatos "is the pride of Oregon." She said Skarlatos’ action "saved many lives and earned him the gratitude of the nation and the world."
Solon Skarlatos said his brother made clear during their phone conversation that Stone deserves special recognition for being the first to tackle the gunman, receiving cuts to his back, face and finger during the struggle. After subduing the gunman, Stone, a trained paramedic, turned his attention to an injured passenger and tried to treat that person.
"Alek was pretty much like, make sure he gets the credit he deserves because, if it wasn’t for him, things could have ended a lot differently," he said.
Stone’s mother called her son a hero.
"He’s always been a hero to me. Now he’s an actual hero. He deserves it. He put his life on the line. They all did, and I’m just very, very proud of him. So proud," she said.