Yesterday, a 25-year-old Moroccan gunman named as Ayoub El-Kahzzani attempted to attack and injure passengers in a high speed train armed with a Kalashnikov rifle (AK rifle), automatic pistol and a box cutter knife.
The train in question was a high-speed Thalys service travelling from Amsterdam to Paris. The attack happened as the train reached Oignies in northern France. A French passenger tried to access the toilets and was faced with the heavily armed Moroccan. The passenger tried to bring him under control but was shot. As the terrorist made his way into a separate carriage, three Americans, Anthony Sadler, Alex Skarlatos and Spencer Stone along with a Briton, Chris Norman, fought with and overpowered the man thus preventing the terrorist from continuing his rampage. There were a couple of severe injuries but thankfully no one was killed in this attack.
Spencer Stone was among the injured as he fought with the Moroccan who struggled and slashed at him with the box cutter. Two of the Americans were off duty soldiers, travelling through Europe with their friend Anthony Sadler. According to interviews with Chris Norman and Anthony Sadler, one of the Americans (Alex) shouted “go get him” and Spencer was the first to run down the aisle to tackle the man. Spencer held the man in the choke hold while Alex struggled to remove the weapons from him. The terrorist then pulls out a box cutter and slashes Spencer a few times. The other passengers proceed to struggle with the man and subdue him. After he had been immobilised, Spencer then went to the aid of the injured passenger who had been shot despite bleeding from the cuts he received.
Alex with the AK in his hand began to patrol the carriages looking for other gunmen where he discovered that the AK had malfunctioned and the Terrorist did not have the competence to fix it, the terrorist also didn’t load his automatic handgun properly and only managed one shot off. It was extremely lucky for these 4 heroes as they would have been one of the first to be shot had the rifle and handgun worked.
The Briton Chris Norman mentioned in his interview how his first instinct was to hide, then hearing the Alex shouting “go get him” and seeing the 3 Americans rush forward, he thought “I’m probably going to die anyway so, let’s go” he also mentioned in his interview “I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, than simply sit in the corner and be shot”.
Chris’s words really resonate with me, I do agree with him, in this situation you would probably be shot as the terrorist makes his way down the train, so you might as well try to go down swinging than in your seat huddle in a corner. I have always wondered what I would do in a situation like that, probably similar to Chris the first instinct would be to hide and try to preserve your life but after that, it would probably be better to try and fight.
This is reminiscent of some of my thoughts during the 9/11 terrorist attack. I wondered if the passengers knew that they were going to die when the planes were crashed into the world trade center, would they all have worked together and overpowered the terrorists? In these situations, usually the victims outnumber the terrorists and if they all banded together, they would have come out on top. I hope more people subscribe to this thought and suppress the initial instinct to preserve their own life and band together and overpower the terrorist. I think a very Asian cultural thing would be to ignore and “don’t try to be hero”. We place a lot of value on self-preservation. Everyone is going to die some day might as well greet death bravely as a hero trying to stop a terrorist than meekly in the seat waiting for death to come.
These brave passengers have received medals for their bravery and will be remembered for having saved many lives on board the train. I hope if it ever comes to it, I would be able to rise to the occasion and not meekly hope someone else will deal with it.