SACRAMENTO (AP) — An American student who helped stop a terror attack on a Paris-bound high-speed train said Wednesday it’s been a “crazy few days” and he is happy to be home.
Anthony Sadler spoke briefly during a news conference with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who presented him with a basketball jersey.
“I’d just like to thank everybody for coming out,” Sadler said. “After such a crazy few days, it feels good to be back on American soil, but especially in Sacramento. This is my home, and I’m just glad to be back here to see everybody.”
It was the first time the 23-year-old Sacramento State University student and his family have spoken publicly since he returned to the U.S.
Sadler arrived in Sacramento on Tuesday after first taking a private jet to Portland, Oregon. Columbia Sportswear CEO Timothy Boyle had made the jet available to fly the Americans’ mothers to France.
Sadler and two Sacramento-area friends — U.S. Air Force Airman Spencer Stone, 23, and Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, 22 — helped subdue Ayoub El-Khazzani, a man with ties to radical Islam who was carrying a handgun and an assault weapon on the train Friday.
His father, a church pastor also named Anthony Sadler, recounted how he ignored his son’s initial telephone call after the attack because it came from a strange number. Only after his son sent him two texts did he answer the call.
“He began telling me what happened with the words that any parent would want to hear. He began by saying, ‘Dad, I’m all right. We’re all right. But something happened,’” he said. “I fell back in my seat in disbelief. I couldn’t believe what had taken place and what my son and Spencer and Alek had found themselves involved in in the middle of this great European trip.”
Johnson added that, “The story we are celebrating here today could be entirely different if it wasn’t for the bravery of Anthony, Alek and Spencer. ...A massacre could have taken place, but it was averted.”
Stone was undergoing treatment at a military hospital in Germany for injuries suffered in the attack. Skarlatos remained with Stone in Germany.
“It’s kind of overwhelming for me,” Sadler said Wednesday. “I didn’t expect all this to happen, but I just appreciate you all for coming, and it’s just good to be back home.”
The mayor gave Sadler a Sacramento Kings jersey after saying he saw the college student wearing a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.
“We’re so thankful to have one of those three young men here with us,” Johnson said. “On behalf of the city and this region, we just want to say to you, thank you, thank you and thank you!”
Senior U.S. Army leaders said Skarlatos will get the Soldiers Medal — the Army’s highest award for acts of heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy.
The city of Sacramento is planning a parade for all three men, who grew up in the area. Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers said federal, state and local authorities are consulting to make sure Sadler is in no danger, but his father said there currently are no credible threats against his son.
Sadler was greeted with repeated applause by a crowd including family members, city officials and bystanders including local golf pro Taylor Hawkins.
She said she came out “just to see and just to support Anthony Sadler. I think what he did was heroic — to have that courage, just to do what he and he did, he and his friends.”