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Hero who helped stop train attack: 'It feels good to be back on American soil'

Anthony Sadler, one of three Americans who thwarted an attack on a train in France, says he's glad to be home in Sacramento but has been overwhelmed by the attention.

As a crowd gave him a standing ovation Wednesday, Sadler, 23, stood with his hands in his pockets on a stage outside Sacramento City Hall, his eyes cast downward.

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Calling Sadler and two other Americans "hometown heroes," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson promised a parade "fit for some kings" in coming weeks.

The news conference was the first public appearance Sadler had made since he returned to the U.S. after the Friday train ride that made him famous.

Sadler and two longtime friends — Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, who are both still overseas — were on a European trip when they acted quickly to wrestle a gunman to the floor as their high-speed train zipped through the French countryside.

"After such a crazy few days, it feels good to be back on American soil, but especially in Sacramento," Sadler told the crowd. "This is my home ... and I am just glad to be back here to see everybody."

He added: "It's kind of overwhelming for me. I didn't expect all this to happen."

Minutes after delivering his comments, Sadler was presented with a Sacramento Kings jersey before he quickly left the stage. He had to get to class at Cal State Sacramento, where he's a senior.

Five days ago, Sadler and his family were regular people, his father said. Now the family is the focus of worldwide attention.

Because the interest has been so intense, Sadler's father asked members of the public and news media to give the family some time alone.

In time, the younger Sadler will share his story and details about what happened aboard the train, his father said.

Anthony R. Sadler said he was sitting in a barber's chair getting a haircut Friday when he got a call from a number in Paris that he didn't recognize. He let the call go to voice mail.

Seconds later, his son messaged him: "Dad, pick up the phone, pick up the phone."

The call, the elder Sadler said, started off with words frightening to any parent.

"I am all right, we are all right, but something happened," his son said.

The 23-year-old explained how he, Stone and Skarlatos stopped the gunman.

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"I fell back in my seat," his father said at the news conference. He was in disbelief.

The next few days were frantic, he said, adding, "Nothing can replace seeing and holding him."

Sadler, Stone and Skarlatos grew up in Sacramento and have been friends since middle school. They decided to take a trip together before Stone, an Air Force paramedic, is reassigned from Europe at the end of the year.

Sadler, Stone and Skarlatos, a rifleman with the National Guard, met up in Amsterdam.

The friends almost didn't get on the Paris-bound train because they considered staying another day in Amsterdam, according to Skarlatos' brother, Solon.

On the train, the friends heard a gunshot and saw a man brandishing weapons. Stone yelled, "Let's go!" He and Skarlatos ran toward the gunman, who tried to fire at them, but the gun jammed.

Stone grabbed the gunman by the neck as Skarlatos wrestled one of the guns away.

The gunman pulled out a box cutter and attacked Stone, who suffered a number of cuts, including one that nearly severed his thumb.

Sadler and a British businessman, Chris Norman, pummeled the gunman and helped hogtie him on the floor of the train.

French authorities identified the gunman as Ayoub El Khazzani, 25, a Moroccan national, and said he had ties to Islamic terrorist organizations.

After the attack, the four men received France's highest honor, the Legion d'honneur.

Sacramento city officials said they were relieved to know Sadler, Stone and Skarlatos were safe.

"Everyone understands what could have happened," Mayor Johnson said.

Now city and local law enforcement, he said, are responsible for making sure they are safe.

"This is a proud day for Sacramento," Johnson said. "We are big city doing big things. The world got a chance to see our core values on display."

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA

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