The train hero flew home following the deadly shooting

By Patrick Gomez
October 05, 2015 09:05 PM

Alek Skarlatos took time to pay tribute to the victims of last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

The Dancing with the Stars contestant shared his grief during Monday’s broadcast. The shooting, in which a gunman identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer killed nine people, was particularly painful for Skarlatos, who has strong ties to the college, where he would have been attending classes the day of the shooting had he not been competing on DWTS.

“Once I found out about the shooting, I just started calling all my friends and family. I felt totally hopeless. Like there was nothing I could do,” he said in a pre-recorded segment. “I just felt like I needed to get home as fast as I could.”

The show aired footage of him at a candlelight vigil for the victims.

“Being here under these circumstances, it just doesn’t feel the same. This isn’t the quiet town that I left,” he said. “It’s honestly the strangest emotions I’ve felt. Even the train made more sense than this does.”

Skarlatos is no stranger to violent attacks. The Army National Guard Specialist helped stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in August.

“This week has been very hard. My entire mind and heart has been with Roseburg.”

He earned 24 out of 30 for his dance, which he said has kept him positive and focused.

After his performance, Skarlatos, 22 said he has been very emotional this week.

“I didn’t really feel anything from what happened on the train, but when this happens in my hometown and there is nothing you can do about it, it’s just a total shock that you can’t do everything all the time,” he told PEOPLE.

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.