Solon Skarlatos almost didn't answer the phone when it rang Friday morning. It was from an unknown number in Europe. When he picked up, it was his brother Alek Skarlatos, who said he and his childhood friends had stopped a terrorist on a train headed to Paris.
Alek Skarlatos, who grew up in Sacramento but is a National Guardsman in Roseburg, Ore., was vacationing in Europe with Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and another friend, Anthony Sadler. The trio boarded a Paris-bound train in Amsterdam on Friday.
After a stop in Brussels, a man came out of the bathroom and fired a shot, said Solon Skarlatos. He said his brother looked at Stone and said, "Let's get him." Stone rushed to tackle the shooter and Skarlatos followed. Other people on the train also were reported to have helped in subduing the gunman.
"The guy actually tried shooting his gun at my brother and Spencer and the gun didn't go off," Solon Skarlatos said. "Both of the guns didn't. He had a handgun and an AK47 rifle. None of the rounds fired because it was a dud. The cartridge was dead. It didn't work. That was pretty lucky. It's pretty surreal."
Solon Skarlatos said his brother, who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan, traveled to Germany to visit relatives he'd never met. His grandfather was a Greek prisoner of war who met a German woman and they moved to the U.S., said his aunt Candace Skarlatos.
Later in the trip, Alek Skarlatos met up with Stone and Sadler in Amsterdam to watch the soccer team Ajax. They almost didn't get on the train because they were considering staying another day, Solon Skarlatos said.
"Having two military guys on the train and another guy with them, in that area, where the gunman got on, it's almost luck that they were on it," Solon Skarlatos said. "It's unlucky that they were at that incident but lucky for everyone else that they were the ones who were there at that particular time and that everything happened the way it did."
Solon Skarlatos said his family is proud of the three men.
"It's not every day that your brother stops a terrorist from a massacre on a train," Skarlatos said. "That's pretty incredible."
But Solon Skarlatos said his brother made clear during their conversations that Stone--who was first to tackle the gunman and was injured in the process--deserved special recognition.
"Spencer was the biggest one of the three that did everything. He's the one who got cut up. He was the first one on the terrorist. He got his back cut up quite a bit, the side of his face, his finger almost cut off... And immediately after they subdued the terrorist he was on top of the guy who got his neck cut because he's also an EMT.
"It was almost his instinct to take care of the threat and then help the injured people. Alek was pretty much like, make sure he gets the credit he deserves because, if it wasn't for him, things could have ended a lot differently."
Solon Skarlatos said his brother couldn't sleep Friday night after the incident on the train.
"He told me that he felt like he had done more in this one-hour event on the train than he did in his whole 10 months in Afghanistan," Solon Skarlatos said.
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