Ordinary people can and will do extraordinary things especially when confronted with terrorism.
But when honored Monday by French President Francois Hollande in the ornate Elysee Palace for their Friday heroics aboard a high-speed, Amsterdam-to-Paris train, three Americans chose the ordinary, underdressed look. In short-sleeve polo shirts and Khakis, they looked more like they were going out for a beer than getting the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, from Hollande.
Who can blame them. The turnaround from just average Joes to heroes was swift, and they will likely be honored more when they return to the United States.
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and their friend Anthony Sadler were credited with British businessman Chris Norman with subduing a heavily armed man aboard the train, carrying more than 500 passengers Friday afternoon while the train was in Belgian territory. Some of the passengers were wounded, but no one was killed.
Ayoub El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan armed with an AK-47, an automatic pistol and a knife, was taken into custody. The heroics aboard the train likely prevented more injuries and certainly kept everyone alive, which would have added to what France already has suffered because of terroist attacks.
Since January Islamic militants have killed 17 people in attacks in and around Paris.
The French Legion of Honor medal usually is reserved for those who have served France and its ideals. American recipients in the past have been World War II veterans who helped liberate the country from the Nazis.
The heroics aboard the train helped show that everyday people can do magnificent things when confronted with terrorism, saving their own lives and those of others.