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October 06, 2015 01:40 AM

There is no denying that Alek Skarlatos has the heart of a hero.

Less than two months after he helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train, the Army National Guard Specialist says he “absolutely” wishes he had been on the Umpqua Community College campus in his hometown of Roseburg, Oregon, where nine people were killed and at least seven were wounded during a gunman‘s deadly rampage last Thursday.

Alek Skarlatos
David Livingston/Getty

“I think every person wishes they could have been in that classroom and tried to do something, but you don’t choose the time and the place of those things,” Skarlatos tells PEOPLE . “I felt guilty for not being there – not in the classroom necessarily, but just not being with my community when it happened.”

But even if he had been at UCC – where he says he would have been taking classes had he not signed on to compete on season 21 of Dancing with the Stars – Skarlatos isn’t not sure if he would have taken action like he did on the train.

“You just never know what kind of person you are going to be until it actually happens. And even then, each situation could be different,” he says. “A lot of people are just too shocked to do anything and some people just feel the need to survive.”

Skarlatos – who flew home last week after being texted by a friend about the shooting – paid tribute to his community on Monday’s episode of DWTS.

“At this point, I like dancing because it’s kind of a getaway and a distraction from real life,” he says of returning to the competition after his trip home. “I’m hoping to move past this, but it’s anybody’s guess if I can actually do that.”

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