Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone had dozed off.
Alek Skarlatos was texting with his phone.
As for Christopher Norman, financial management consultant, he was working on his computer.
All were traveling in car 12 of the Thalys 9364 connecting Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Paris on August 21, 2015 when, around 5.30 p.m., they were suddenly brought out of their torpor by the sound of explosion and broken glass.
A few seconds earlier, Ayoub El Khazzani had come out of the toilet shirtless, a backpack on his stomach and a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder.
Damien A. first, then Mark Moogalian, had already grabbed and partially disarmed.
But the terrorist, tried since the beginning of the week by the Special Assize Court of Paris, had taken advantage of the intrusion of the controller to extricate himself and make himself threatening again.
It was then that "the cavalry" - the expression is Mark Moogalian, the miracle of this abortive attack - landed.
With the exception of Spencer Stone, hospitalized on Wednesday when he got off the plane in Roissy and whose testimony was postponed to Monday, all the actors in this heroic sequence have testified in the last two days.
"I felt that time stood still"
Surprised in consulting his phone, Alex Skarlatos immediately grasped the gravity of the situation.
“I felt that time stood still, that my heart was sinking into my chest,” recalls this former US National Guard soldier.
The first thing I said to myself is that
it is out of the question.
The audience is amused by the translation retained by the interpreter because the original version is in reality less civilized: "no fucking way".
Barely had he time to alert his comrade Spencer Stone, also a soldier, when the latter had already rushed into the alley to grab hold of Ayoub El Khazzani who had just, he specifies, recharged his Kalashnikov.
"I was shot in the back", remembers the passenger who disarmed El Khazzani
Immediately, Spencer Stone practices a choke key on the terrorist while Alek Skarkatos recovers the machine gun.
Awakened with a start, Anthony Sadler, the third thief, sees his two comrades fighting.
"I hear Spencer say twice: he has a gun," said the slender young man in a long black overcoat.
Ayoub El Khazzani has indeed grabbed his pistol - the one with which he just shot Mark Moogalian - but, once again, Alek Skarlatos manages to snatch the weapon from his hands.
The Americans are now three to try to control the jihadist.
“He never uttered a word, not even a sound, even when we were fighting, insists Anthony Sadler.
His eyes were wide open, his gaze was very intense.
It was very hard to control him.
He kept coming out of the weapons.
The Moroccan will also use a cutter with which he will injure Spencer Stone on his hand and neck.
"I pulled the trigger, the blow did not go"
The three friends, who came to spend a few days of vacation in Europe, somehow manage to put the assailant's head on a table.
The situation could then have taken a completely different turn.
"I put the gun behind his head and told him
," says Alek Skalartos, thick build and blue suit on his shoulders.
But either he couldn't hear me or he couldn't understand English and I pulled the trigger.
The blow did not go away.
I reloaded the pistol and realized there was no magazine.
At this point we were quite frustrated.
"Anthony Sadler fully assumes:" He tried to take our lives, we reacted by trying to take his.
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Present in this train, Christopher Norman also attended the scene of the pistol.
Initially, this British consultant initially believed his last hour had come.
oh shit, I know what this is.
I curled up in my seat and thought:
here it is, this is how it ends, life has been good so far, I hope my wife is going to be okay.
But the entrepreneur with the pepper and salt beard recovered very quickly: “I knew that the nature of terrorism had changed and that they were no longer there to take prisoners but to kill.
So I thought I might
as well act rather than sit still.
The entrepreneur then joins the American trio and bends an arm of the jihadist.
He bends down to the bar to mimic the scene.
A Thalys driver in reserve, who was traveling in the same wagon, also approaches and grabs the jihadist's other arm.
Body-to-body with the terrorist
The expeditious method not having worked, the interveners set out again hand-to-hand.
On several occasions, Alek Skarlatos shoots cannon on the temple of the one he calls "Mister Zani" (Mr. Zani).
"He wasn't even blinking, he was staring at me," he wonders.
The strangling maneuver operated by Spencer Stone will be the most effective: the terrorist's eyes roll back, he finally loses consciousness.
Chris Norman is responsible for tying up the terrorist, which he will manage to do with a pink tie unearthed by Isabelle Moogalian.
The 3 American heroes made French citizens
As Spencer Stone rushes to Mark Moogalian's bedside putting two fingers into the wound on his neck to stop the bleeding, Alek Skarlatos sets out to check the rest of the oar and, to do so, recharges the Kalashnikov.
“To my surprise, a bullet was thrown into the seat.
I saw that it had a mark on it, which means he had fired with it and the gun was working properly.
In fact, he had bad ammunition.
We can be grateful to those who provided them to him.
I told Anthony and Chris that we were very lucky.
On her seat, Me Sarah Mauger Poliak, Ayoub El Khazzani's lawyer, fidgets: “The witness is not the ballistics expert.
"" I would like to be considered as a connoisseur of weapons and ammunition, "retorts the former soldier, who specifies that he himself possessed twenty weapons, including an AK 47.
To each of the protagonists of this operation, the president asks what they expect from this trial.
"I wish that Mr. Zani is never released from prison, insists Anthony Sadler.
His intention was to kill me, my friends and everyone on the train.
I don't wish he could have the opportunity to do it again.
»Stoic on his bench during all these days, Ayoub El Khazzani faces life imprisonment.
The unfolding of August 21, 2015
At 5:16 pm, Ayoub El Khazzani enters the toilets between cars 12 and 13
Around 5:45 p.m., Damien A. goes to the bathroom.
Ayoub comes out shirtless, a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder.
Damien A. blocks it between the luggage rack and the sliding door.
Mark Moogalian (car 12, place 71), then in the airlock, returns to tell his wife (car 12, place 74) to run away.
Moogalian returns to the airlock to help Damien A.
Believing in an altercation between passengers, the controller arrives and opens the separation door.
Ayoub frees himself.
Damien A. flees to car 13. The controller is pushed against the luggage rack and hides in this luggage space.
Moogalian returns to the airlock and retrieves the Kalashnikov.
He leaves in car 12. Ayoub follows him and shoots once.
Moogalian is shot in the shoulder and collapses.
Ayoub picks up the Kalashnikov, turns around and takes aim at Damien A. who flees to the bar car.
Spencer Stone (car 12, place 45), Aleksander Skarlatos (car 12, place 46) and Anthony Sadler (V 12 p 44) charge Ayoub.
Spencer hits him head first, drops him, then strangles him from behind.
Skarlatos snatches his Kalashnikov and then a handgun.
Sadler hits him with punches and kicks.
Ayoub grabs a cutter and wounds Stone three times.
Christopher Norman (Car 12, place 14) intervenes and grabs the terrorist's right arm.
Another passenger grabs his left arm.
Ayoub loses consciousness, is tied up and gagged.