On August 21, 2015, a terrorist opened fire on a train bound for Paris from Amsterdam. His deadly plans were foiled by two off-duty American service members and their best friend.
At the time, Spencer Stone was an Air Force Medical Technician and Alek Skarlatos was a member of the Army National Guard. They’d planned the Europe vacation with their best friend Anthony Sadler and had been looking forward to their in-person reunion for months. At the last minute, they changed their itinerary midway through the trip to go to Paris.
Stopping a terrorist attack was never on the agenda.
The three had been best friends for over a decade. “We've actually known each other since we were 12 years old,” Sadler shared. He was the new kid on the block at their middle school in California when Stone and Skarlatos immediately befriended him.
“The school we went to was very small and there weren't really a lot of kids in the first place so we were just happy to have a new kid to hang out with,” Stone laughed.
It was their deep connection as childhood friends which Stone and Sadler credit to their collective response against the gun-wielding terrorist. “We already had the decision made up and in our minds what we would do in a situation like that,” Stone explained. “Given the circumstances of us being on a train going 200 miles an hour in the middle of the countryside, there's nowhere to go. It just seemed like our only option.”
The choice to fight was made without hesitation, they both agreed.
After a hand-to-hand fight and physically subduing the terrorist, Stone was busy saving the life of a passenger who’d been shot in the neck, holding pressure with his fingers directly on his artery to prevent him from bleeding out. Skarlatos cleared the train and Sadler was hunting down all the medical supplies to support the injured.
Later, they'd learn the terrorist had boarded the train armed with an automatic pistol, box cutter and a Kalashnikov with nine clips, each holding 30 rounds. During trial in 2020, the attorney for the three of them stated their heroics prevented a slaughter.
An hour after they stopped the attack, their lives changed forever. Stone had to be brought to the hospital due to knife wounds from fighting hand to hand with the terrorist and the three were seperated for a day. When they reunited, the story had been going viral throughout the news and media.
Since then, all three have received numerous awards, spoken about their experience and been featured guests on television talk shows. The three published a book about their story, The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes. In 2018, it became a feature film directed by Clint Eastwood and all three played themselves on the big screen adaption of their story.
Now you can watch Stone and Sadler as contestants on the newest season of CBS’ hit show, The Amazing Race, beginning January 5, 2022. The series is celebrating its 20th season.
Stone admitted they were both a little nervous about taking part in a reality show but loved the experience from start to finish. “I think we did really well between me and Spencer. We had no idea what it would be like,” Sadler said. “It puts your relationship with your partner to the test but we were so hyped to do it together.”
Together they had already survived one of the hardest of tests. If there’s anything readers can glean from what they went through or their story specifically, both said they wanted individuals to “not be bystanders.”
“What's the first general reaction of someone when they see someone in trouble or something bad happening? They take out their phone and they start recording them. It’s all about changing people’s mindset,” Stone stated. “Just lend a helping hand. So many bad things can be prevented if people took action and cared about their fellow human beings.”
The season 33 premiere of The Amazing Race will feature 11 teams who will travel all over the world facing mental and physical challenges. You can watch Stone and Sadler compete (and hopefully win the coveted $1 million dollar prize) each Wednesday night on CBS beginning January 5, 2022. Viewers can also stream the show by subscribing to CBS All Access, which is now Paramount+.