Spencer Stone was just a regular dude, living it up on a cool European summer vacation with two of his best buds. The twenty-three year old Airman First Class had gotten a little R&R time from the Air Force, and he’d used it to link up with his two best friends from Middle School, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Stadler. These dudes had all gone to school together in Fair Oaks, California, stayed friends for ten-plus years, and now were on their way back from a bitchin’ trip to Amsterdam, where I’m sure they were doing good clean wholesome All-American shit like going to church, riding their bikes along the canals, checking out the Rembrandt and Van Gogh Museums, and singing “America the Beautiful” really loud every time they walked by those terrible cafes that let you smoke mad reefer and drink Amstel Light with a bunch of hookers.
All was going well for these bros, and late last Friday, August 21, 2015, they were all just maxin’ and relaxin’ on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris, the next stop on their world tour. Stone, probably exhausted from a busy day touring the world famous De Gooyer Windmill, was catching some sleep in first class while his buddies were unsuccessfully trying to get the wireless working on their laptops.
Then, out of nowhere, this cool guy summer vacation went from The Hangover to Taken, and all hell broke loose in a scene that no person would ever want to find themselves experiencing. Shattering the calm, the unmistakable crack of gunfire echoed through the train car, followed quickly by the shattering sounds of broken glass exploding everywhere and the terrified screams of hundreds of passengers.
Storming forward, right past the guys’ seats, was a shirtless Moroccan man holding a locked-and-loaded AK-47 assault rifle. Ayoub El-Khazzani, a twenty-six year old man who had recently visited Syria in the hopes of joining up with ISIS, stormed forward in terrifying fucking silence, saying nothing as he waved the barrel of the Kalashnikov indiscriminately around the train car and hammered his index finger down on the trigger of the rifle. Eight fully-loaded magazines of 7.62mm ammunition were clearly visible stuffed into his pockets and his waistband.
Well, holy shit, luckily for everyone in the train, the gun didn’t go off when this maniac pulled the trigger. His weapon had jammed after the first shot, and now a bullet was lodged in the receiver. El-Khazzani lowered the rifle slightly and pulled back on the charging handle.
If the three Americans wanted to have any chance of preventing a horrific mass-casualty tragedy, they were going to have a split-second – and only a split-second – to react.
Alek Skarlatos, a veteran of the Oregon National Guard who had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, slapped Stone on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go.”
Spencer Stone bolted awake, took one look at the situation, and sprung out of his seat.
Further up the train car, a woman passenger reported that she heard a loud man’s voice boom over the din of the train car. It said, “FUCK THIS SHIT.”
El-Khazzani wheeled, still charging the handle on his AK, desperately trying to get it working as a gigantic shaved-head American motherfucker barreled towards him in a dead-sprint screaming like goddamn Brian Urlacher before he murders a Quarterback.
He didn’t get his gun unjammed in time.
Spencer Stone barreled into the dude, hammering him full-throttle at maximum velocity. As he crashed into the man, he tomahawked the AK-47 like a goddamn defensive lineman, slapping it down, then pulled the dude to the ground and started choking the shit out of him. Stone slapped a rear naked choke hold on the guy, murphing him out and wrenching a bicep into the dude’s windpipe, all the while reaching out and trying to get that goddamn AK away from the dude.
El-Khazzani pulled the rifle down to get it away from Stone’s reach, but by this time Skarlatos was right there as well. He grabbed the rifle with both hands, wrenched it from the dude’s grip, and then smashed the would-be terrorist in the fucking face with his own damn weapon. Like, a lot of times in a row. Anthony Stadler and another man, 50 year-old Brit Chris Norman, were also closing in to assist.
But El-Khazzani had come prepared. With his automatic rifle now being repeatedly cracked into his head with another dude cutting off the oxygen supply to his brain, El-Khazzani reached into his waistband and pulled out his handgun.
It was a fucking Luger.
Ok, dude, these guys had just been in Amsterdam touring the Anne Frank Museum, and if you don’t think two American servicemen were already pretty jacked up to beat the shit out of a mass-murdering spree-shooting ISIS terrorist in France then try pulling out a goddamn Nazi sidearm on them and see what happens. Skarlatos grabbed the guy’s wrist, immediately took the gun away, and now everyone is just wailing on this guy trying to get him to stop resisting.
But El-Khazzani STILL wasn’t done fighting back. Still surrounded by guys fighting him with everything they had, he pulled out a boxcutter with a decent-size blade and started slashing ruthlessly at Stone, trying to cut him and wound him bad enough that he could break free from the choke hold that was slowly rendering him unconscious. Slashing and hacking blindly in every direction, El-Khazzani sliced a nasty cut next to Stone’s right eye, cut a deep gouge on the back of his neck, and dug the blade so deep into Stone’s thumb that it almost completely severed it from his hand.
Despite his eyes, neck, and hand all gushing blood and searing with pain, Spencer Stone didn’t let up. He just cranked his choke hold tighter and didn’t let up until El-Khazzani was unconscious.
Well, the shooter was down, but the passengers weren’t out of the woods yet. Apparently, that lone gunshot had struck another passenger, 51 year old French-American academic Mark Mooligan, square in the neck. Mooligan had seen the shooter on his approach and tried to stop him, but caught a bullet to the throat for his trouble and now he was gushing blood from his carotid artery. As he lay on the aisle slowly bleeding to death, he called out to his wife, sitting a few rows away from him, and told her that he loved her.
Fuck that. Spencer Stone wasn’t about to give up on this guy just because he was shot in the damn neck, had no medical supplies, and was missing a pretty important finger from his dominant hand.
Stone was trained in first aid by the Air Force, and, despite being completely covered in his own blood and the blood of his enemies this dude raced over and attended to the wounded civilian. As Skarlatos, Stadler and Norman used their t-shirts to hog-tie the unconscious El-Khazzani, Stone raced over, knelt down, and stuck two fingers into the bullet wound. He found the bleeding artery and clamped down on it with his fingers, applying pressure to stop the bleeding. He remained in this position for ten minutes while he waited for the medics to arrive.
Mark Mooligan survived.
Stone being wheeled out of the train station after the fight.
For their heroism on the train last week, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Stadler and Chris Norman were all personally awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the President of France in an awards ceremony earlier this week. Stone is also set to receive the Airman’s Medal, which is the highest award the Air Force offers for heroism in a non-combat situation.
All three friends are going to be getting a parade in their home town of Sacramento.
“The word ‘hero’ has never been more appropriate. They are truly heroes.
When most of us would run away, Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire,
saying ‘Let’s go.’ Those words changed the fate of many.”
The Sacramento Bee