The three Americans who prevented the attack on a Paris-bound train last August finally got to Paris this weekend.
Airman Spencer Stone, Alex Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler Jr. who were the surprise guests at the US Embassy’s annual Independence Day garden party on Monday told PEOPLE exclusively that returning to Paris, ten months later has been “amazing.”
“We kind of saw it very fast last time,” Airman Spencer Stone said. “I’ve been waiting to return since we left. It’s been a crazy year and I was just waiting to be a tourist.”
“To be able to walk the streets, see sunset at the Eiffel Tower,” added Alex Skarlatos, “to see the lights twinkle and take a slow guided tour has been the trip we had hoped to have.
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It wasn’t completely anonymous however admitted Anthony Sadler. “People came up to us in the street, French people, saying “Thank you.”
The August 21st attack on the high-speed Amsterdam-to-Paris rail line caught world attention when the three Americans intervened preventing a heavily armed terrorist from inflicting untold injuries.
US Airman Spencer Stone, Army Spc. Alex Skarlatos and their childhood friend Anthony Sadler were travelling on the 5:17 to Paris, a high-speed Thalys runs from Amsterdam-to-Paris when terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani, who had boarded the train during a stop in Brussels stepped into their compartment wielding a kalishnikov rifle. Another American, Sorbonne university professor Mark Moogalian was shot while wrestling the gunman before Stone and Skarlatos took down the terrorist.
A trained emergency medic, Stone is credited with having saved Moogalian in the aftermath while ignoring his own injuries.
Moogalian and his wife, Isabella, were also the Ambassador’s guests.
The events of the past year, Sadler suggests have “strengthened the bond between us.” And evidently their shared sense of humor.
“There’ve been so many experiences,”states Alex Skarlatos slyly when asked to describe the past ten months.”I got a house. Spencer got stabbed again. It’s been a pretty decent year but hard to put into words.”
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” announces Stone. “There have been moments where it slows and then there’s another big climb.” Outside their own group, he suggests, only their families” can appreciate the events.
Stone and Skarlatos, along with Sadler Jr. and British citizen Chris Norman received France’s Legion d’Honneur for their role.” The impromptu ceremony caught the trio arriving without luggage and attending the ceremony in casual polo shirts. (Moogalian who remained hospitalized after the attack was decorated by French President Hollande during a September ceremony.)
For US Ambassador Jane Hartley who has remained in email contact with the trio and their families, the emotion-filled reunion was reassuring.”I don’t think they’ve changed.
“They’re still the same great guys they were. Just better dressed this time,” she says drawing a laugh from all.
Their “crazy rollercoaster” is likely to continue. The trio have a book “coming out on the one year anniversary,” says Skarlatos. And hopes of a film.
After meeting Clint Eastwood at an awards ceremony, Skarlatos says: “We sent him a galleys copy. If there’s a film and if he’d direct it, that’d be really awesome.”