“We did just what we had to do. You either run away or fight.”

shotservicemenBureaucracies could not save the passengers. They had been tracking this guy for years and when it mattered, could do nothing. It took 4 brave men accustomed to self reliance and an instinct for survival to bring him down. Here is the story that took place last Friday, August 21, 2015:

The three Americans are sitting at the back of a car on the high speed train whizzing through Belgium … when gunshots ring out. Suddenly a train staffer sprinted past. Then the shooter, Moroccan-born 25-year-old Ayoub el Khazzani, entered the car, his weapons slung against his bare chest. He had just shot another American, Mark Magoolian in the neck as the latter tried to disarm him.

“Let’s go, go,” Alek Skarlatos, a 22 year old member of the National Guard, said to his pal Spencer Stone, also 22 and a US Air Force airman returning from a tour of Afghanistan. Risking a hail of bullets, Stone responded and charged 30 feet down the train car, grabbed the gunman by the neck and tackled him. Skarlatos was right behind him. “I got the handgun away from the guy and threw it. I grabbed the AK, which was at his feet, and started muzzle thumping him in the head with it.” said Skarlatos

The third American, Anthony Sadler, 23, a senior at Sacramento State University recounted: “The gunman pulls out a boxcutter and slices Spencer a few times. The terrorist nearly sliced off Stone’s thumb. Stone was also stabbed in his neck, in the eye area, and in his hands. The gunman never said a word … except to demand his gun back. ‘Give me my gun, give me my gun,’ he said,” Sadler recalled.

A fourth passenger, British businessman Chris Norman, 62, joined the Americans in fighting the gunman. Norman admitted he was a reluctant participant. “My first reaction was to sit down and hide,” he said. But the Americans’ bravery changed his mind.“I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go’. Once you start moving, you are not afraid anymore” said Norman.

Once El Khazzani was knocked out, the passengers tied up his legs and hands. Bleeding profusely himself, Stone then helped save Moogalian’s life by putting pressure on his neck to stop the bleeding.

In a stroke of life-saving luck, the gunman’s weapons malfunctioned … or perhaps he was just incompetent. This gave the Americans time to disarm him. “We just did what we had to do. You either run away or fight. We chose to fight and got lucky and didn’t die,” Skarlatos said.

Not everyone aboard was a hero. Jean-Hugues Anglade, a well-known French actor, was with his two children and his partner. He accused train staffers of “inhuman abandonment” for locking themselves in a baggage compartment and leaving passengers to deal with the gunman alone. Thalys executives later denied that the train’s staff was running away. Instead, they claimed the agents saved a number of passengers and alerted the driver to stop the train.

El Khazzani ’s name is on security watchlists in France, Belgium and Spain due to his links to extremist terror organizations. He was identified by fingerprints taken during a Spanish drug investigation back in 2013. In February 2014, Spanish authorities warned French anti-terror police that El Khazzani might enter France. The Telegraph reported that in 2014 El Khazzani also travelled to Syria where he received military training. It’s believed he moved to Belgium from Spain last year.

Here are my personal comments:

Socialism, “big government” and its variations all propose to make life easier for man, but in the end tend to destroy man’s very instincts for survival. Government cannot do for man what God has ordained, man must do for himself.

Tocqueville noted long ago that intrusive government does not “prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood … it renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself … the will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting” (From Democracy in America)

The Americans who resisted evil that day were not perpetual children. They had not been softened by the pampering of government entitlement. Their self reliance was not frozen nor their will shattered. They refused to accept themselves as inevitable victims of evil.

Their action remind us of a universal truism, as uttered by Chris Norman: “Once you start moving, you are not afraid anymore”. Action is the antidote to fear. Action can inspire others. Action opens the door to the possible. This truism is expressed throughout the Bible, in countless situations of fear and challenge, namely: God always, in some way, expects His people to act before He offers them His salvation. May this powerful lesson inspire us all in our daily lives.

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