It is not only a military career or scientific achievements that make people national heroes. Real heroism is to show your skills in real life in an extreme situation. This happened to three American friends from Sacramento as they traveled through Europe and neutralized an alleged terrorist who opened a rifle fire at the passengers on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. This story inspired Clint Eastwood, and he shot a film based on the life of the friends with a focus on Spencer Stone. The film tells about their lives and the heroic did they happened to do.
It all started with the childhood of the boy Spencer Stone, who had troubles at Christian primary school, where he met his friend Alek Scarlatos.
By the way, all the three heroes of this story met in a Christian school. Stone and Skarlatos have known each other since childhood; their mothers were best friends. Children often violated school discipline. After being caught shooting paintball guns on school grounds, the mothers decided to transfer the children to another school. The Christian primary school followed a more stringent code of conduct, which is why it was chosen. There, friends met Sadler, after which they all became comrades.
Due to the problems in his studies, Stone became disillusioned with himself, trying to find his purpose in life. He found a goal when he met the Marines at his job in a local cafe — to get into the Air Force parachute rescue squad.
After this meeting, Spencer Stone livened up and began to train a lot to qualify for his dream job. He saw his purpose in saving people, and Spencer believed that this is the most worthy purpose for existence. Spencer Stone spent a lot of time in preparatory school, achieved many sports results, but he could not enter the squad of his dreams due to the syndrome of no perception of depth. Moreover, after failing the exam for the Air Force Parachute Rescue Unit, Spencer had to spend some time in the sports complex, next to which para rescuers trained for combat training for the Air Force. Stone recalls that this moment reminded him of his failure. However, although he did not make it to the rescue squad, Stone will be able to rise to the rank of senior sergeant of the Air Force.
In the summer of 2015, Spencer Stone and his friends— a former guardsman Alek Scarlatos and senior lecturer at the University of California Anthony Sadler— traveled to Europe. Stone was able to fulfill the meaning of his life on this trip. On August 21, 2015, already at the end of their trip, the group of friends decided to visit Paris at the last moment.
An interesting fact is that initially, the three friends did not want to go to Paris. Throughout the trip, random people tried to urge young people to exclude Paris from the trip. In Berlin, a hostel girl spoke unflatteringly about Paris, saying that it is too expensive and no more. Other random fellow travelers also said that the French capital was overvalued and that its inhabitants are very rude. The Americans were gathering information and did not want to go to France anymore because they were disappointed in the city in advance. The last city on their trip was Amsterdam. The friends liked the city so much that they did not want to leave there. However, deciding that someone else’s opinion might be wrong, they decided to give Paris a chance and went to France.
Friends dozed listening to music while a train steward ran by in horror. They reacted immediately. In the aisle stood the citizen of Morocco Ayoub el-Khazzani armed with an AK-47 rifle and a backpack fully packed with cartridges.
Thanks to military training, friends Stone and Skarlatos have already taken up stances, hiding between the seats. The alleged terrorist was about to shoot at the passengers as Spencer Stone jumped in his path. In fact, he rushed to certain death: the muzzle of the gun was aimed clearly at his chest, but a miracle happened. The terrorist shot at Stone, but there was a misfire. Spencer Stone took advantage of the moment and knocked down el-Khazzani. His friends immediately joined in, knocking the weapon out of the terrorist’s hands.
When they succeeded, el-Khazzani did not stop to resist and pulled out a pistol with which he tried to kill Stone, who at that moment tried to stop him. The second time, luck smiled at Stone, and his friend knocked the pistol out of his hand and saved the life of his friend. However, the terrorist still had weapons. With a hunting knife, he still stabbed Spencer Stone, cutting his neck and finger. Despite the pain from his wounds, a former Air Force pilot grabbed el-Khazzani and immobilized him with a suffocating grip. Eventually, the terrorist was immobilized and lost consciousness.
After that, the terrorist was neutralized by safely tying him up. And at that moment, one victim of the shooting, el-Khazzani, was discovered. It turned out to be an American of French origin named Mark Moogalian. He was wounded in the neck, but he was still conscious. He was supported by a 28-year-old banker, originally from France. It was he who, in the next carriage, was the first to fight the terrorist.
Thanks to his knowledge, Stone provided first aid to the victim, temporarily stopping the blood until the ambulance arrived.
All the four men who resisted the Moroccan terrorist were awarded the highest award of France — the Legion of Honor— and they came to their homeland as national heroes. This situation was discussed by the whole world, and in his native Sacramento, friends were greeted with a parade which numbered about ten thousand people.
After Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler returned home as national heroes after traveling to Europe, there was a real buzz in their hometown of Sacramento. Local legends participated in many TV shows, all the world’s media wrote and talked about them. To meet the new stars, fans from Sacramento got together and arranged a whole parade for them. The mayor of the city confirmed that about 10 thousand people gathered to meet three friends. The guys were so impressed by this that they did not immediately find words to describe their feelings from the organized parade. Sadler gave a speech to the people in which he said that supporting his hometown was the most enjoyable and not comparable to any other.
The train attack completely changed the lives of the three friends. First, they were awarded in France. Then, at that time, current President Barack Obama invited them to a meeting at the White House. After that, friends have participated in various TV shows, where they talked about the terrible situation on the train to Paris. In 2016 Clint Eastwood presented the Spike channel award. On the same evening, he invited the heroes to make a film based on their history, which, in addition to the terrorist attack, would tell the story of their life.
It was interesting that Eastwood also invited them to play the main roles in his film; thus, they would play themselves. The director gathered the maximum number of real people who witnessed those events, making the film more alive. Thus, the heroes-friends relieved this situation by the minute and reflected in the film the correct development of events.
It took some time for the film to be approved. And then, the director called all the members of the events to Los Angeles. However, none of them knew Eastwood’s exact intentions. Everyone thought they would work on the film like experts to re-enact events. And they were also waiting for the actors who will play them. When Clint Eastwood asked, “Can you live it again,” no one was surprised because perhaps the actors needed to show the fight scene. But then, the director rephrased his request, and everyone was shocked. The famous director asks them to star in his film!
Of course, everyone was confused and asked for a day to think about it. The guys were afraid that they would not cope and let the director down. They never thought that a real person could play himself in the film. However, they did not refuse such a great offer. They knew that later they would regret it greatly.
The young people became very excited when they were offered to play themselves in the film. Their acting career was very interesting and exciting, so they took acting courses for themselves in order to better stay in the scene.
On the first day of filming, everyone felt uncomfortable. Everyone felt responsible for their work. None of the guys ever took part in the filming. Only Scarlatos played on the stage of the dramatic school theater. But still, no one had a clear understanding of the task. It was unusual to play themselves, speak, and act as in ordinary life.
Eastwood’s experiment was rather unusual: his film does not feature professional actors, but those who witnessed what happened in reality. This helped the film get as close to real events as possible. In the film, the actors wear the same clothes as at the time of the terrorist attack and even say the same phrases.
Later, Spencer recalled the most intense moment of filming. In that case, after the bandit was disarmed, Stone rushed to the victim of the shot. The way he clamped the wound so that the victim did not bleed out brought Stone into memory.
Also, the fact is that not only the three main characters are played by real people. The victim was played by Mark Mugalyan, the same man who almost died on the train at the hands of a bandit. Eastwood managed to collect the maximum of real people who were then on the train. The extras that were in the scene, like the rest of the passengers on the train and the British businessman, all played themselves. The only exception was the culprit of the tragic events – Ayub el-Khazzani. He was played by actor Ray Corasani, who, according to eyewitnesses, looks very much like a real bandit.
The film clearly touches upon the theme of finding one’s destiny. It is not in vain that the film shows the heroes from an early age. The most important moments in the lives of the heroes and their decisions move the plot to what happened on August 21, 2015. The personalities of the heroes made important decisions at the moment of sheer danger. They could have escaped or taken refuge under the train seats, and then the bandit would have hurt more people, or maybe even killed. But the Americans rushed into the attack and neutralized the alleged terrorist, saving many lives. This happened because of the heroes’ life experience, which led them to their destiny: saving lives.
There was no emphasis on it in the film, but the three friends from Sacramento are deep believers. They personally confirmed that they believed that it was God who had led them all their lives to this point. As they remember their moments in life, they realize that all the decisions they’ve made in life have been made and prepared for an attack on a train.
The idea of the film was to show that ordinary people can do something extraordinary and useful. But do not ignore the fact that Stone and Skarlatos did undergo military training, and in theory, they knew how to act in such situations, and Stone’s skills helped save the life of the injured Moogalian. And yet, not all people with special skills that they received in life will be able to morally apply this knowledge in extreme moments of danger. As well as the courage and self-sacrifice of Stone, Scarlatos, and Sandler did not go unnoticed and inspired many people. If you want to do something in your life, it is not always possible to do it in the situations that you expect. Unexpected things happen, and you need to be brave to face them with dignity.
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