The robber was planning to rob passengers during that particular train ride. He later said he was never trying to perform an act of terrorism.
PARIS, France — They grew up together, fought off an attacker together and were honored together.
Two days after they pounced and subdued a gunman aboard a packed train, childhood American friends Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos got the Legion of Honor — France’s highest recognition.
Fellow British passenger Chris Norman, who helped tackle the gunman, also got the award during the ceremony at Elysee Palace on Monday.
“By their courage, they saved lives,” President Francois Hollande said. “They gave us an example of what is possible to do in these kinds of situations.”
The four stopped a potential massacre Friday aboard the high-speed train headed from Amsterdam to Paris.
“Three friends, discovering Europe — heading to Paris,” Hollande said. “Three Americans and one Englishman … you risked your lives to defend an ideal, the ideal of liberty and freedom.”
Another passenger — a French national who has not gone public — also confronted the gunman, and will be honored at a later date.
Napoleon Bonaparte established the award in 1802 to recognize exceptional leaders and unusual achievements.
‘He never said a word’
The four were in the same train car when gunfire erupted. Shortly afterward, a shirtless man appeared with a gun slung over his shoulder.
“He never said a word,” said Sadler, a student at California State University in Sacramento. “At that time, it was either do something or die.”
They charged at the gunman, and a fierce struggle ensued.
“He kept pulling more weapons left and right,” Stone said, his arm in a sling from injuries suffered in the incident. “He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end. So were we.”
They punched the suspect, choked him and hit him with his own weapons. They finally restrained him before the train pulled up in Arras, northern France.
“I feel happy to alive … I want to thank my team members — Alek, Spencer and Sadler,” Norman said.
The confrontation left Stone, a U.S. Air Force member who tackled the attacker first, with wounds in the head and neck, and his thumb nearly cut off. He was hospitalized and released.
“It is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy,” U.S. President Barack Obama said.
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