The three American heroes who stopped a Muslim terrorist intending to massacre people on a Paris-bound train say they knew how to react because they grew up together, playing war.
They were pressed into action when Ayoub El-Khazzani, loaded with an AK-47, a pistol, a box cutter, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a bottle of gasoline, attacked.
Their story is told in the newly released movie is “The 15:17 to Paris,” directed by Clint Eastwood.
The three men hope movie goers take home the message that ordinary people can have an impact in life-threatening situations.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone, U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, a California State University student, sprinted toward El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan national and alleged ISIS recruit, as he pointed his weapon at them on Aug. 15, 2015.
They spoke Thursday night with the Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson.
Eastwood enlisted the three heroes to play themselves in the film.
Skarlatos said making the movie was a matter of just doing again what they had done “the first time.”
Sadler said the Hollywood icon told them, “You just do what you did and I’ll capture the rest.”
It was Stone who first tackled El-Khazzani. Skarlatos wrestled the attacker’s weapon from him. But the jihadist pulled out a box cutter and began slashing Stone. All three men fought El-Khazzani and rendered the assailant unconscious.
They helped other injured passengers until police arrived.
“We hope this changes the narrative and people realize they can do something,” Sadler said.
They say they give all the glory to God for placing them on the train and preparing them for that critical moment.
“The odds of our exact situation happening to us are too astronomical to believe that it was just purely chance,” Skarlatos said in an earlier interview. “I mean, we shouldn’t be here today, to be honest. I really think God had a hand in it.”
Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon Army National Guard’s 41st Infantry Brigade Combat team who had just finished a tour in Afghanistan before traveling to Europe to vacation with his two friends, said the three men had been prepared for that moment by years of medical and infantry training.
“It’s like we were training our whole lives for that moment without even knowing about it,” he said.
Stone, a trained paramedic who said he was raised in a Christian home and attended church every Sunday, added: “God, for me, is someone who is always there, who will always have my back – whether it’s a good situation or a bad situation.
“God is not going to put you through anything you can’t handle. I think that’s what I kinda fell back on in the moment on the train. At times, we’re vessels to be used by him to do his work. And it was an honor to do something that good. … I just want to earn the life we’ve been given by God.”
Sadler said he believes God not only put them there to save lives, He also planned use the men to spread His message.
“I feel like we’re just affirming God’s plan for our lives by being where we’re supposed to be on the train that day and just the things that have happened since. It’s all just another step in the bigger plan that we’re just not aware of,” Sadler said.
“As far as on the train that day, you can’t almost deny that God had his hand on us because so many things could have gone the other way. It’s divine intervention. I feel like we were meant to spread the story, and it’s meant to touch people.”
In his production notes, Eastwood commented about the incident: “Whether it was a guardian angel riding on their shoulders or pure luck or something in between, whatever you believe, however you interpret things in life, these guys were meant to do this and to survive it.”
He also believed that making the film and telling the story of these heroes was an opportunity to explore something more:
These are regular people, like the majority of us out there, who get the gift of life and do the best we can with it, and maybe we get lucky. That day, the stakes couldn’t have been higher, but these guys all ended up doing the right thing at the right time. They could have been very unlucky, but they took charge of their fate. It’s all about what fate hands you … and how you handle it.
This was a revered event in France and America, and it came along at a time when we’re asking ourselves how we would react under adversity. What these boys did was to show that the common man can not only have great instincts, but act on them. Sure, they were prepared in that they had some military and medical training, but they weren’t on a battlefield; they weren’t prepared for this. They just saw something happening and came together, one, two, three, and saved a lot of lives that way. If they can do it, so can we.
The highly anticipated drama marks Eastwood’s third director-producer partnership with Warner Bros., after his blockbuster hits 2016’s Oscar-nominated “Sully” and 2014’s “American Sniper.”