It was late in the day on August 21, 2015. The high-speed train sped through the French countryside on its way to Paris. A man slipped out of the bathroom to make his way back into the crowded passenger car. His mission was simple: kill as many people as possible. He was well equipped to deliver on that promise. With an AKM assault rifle slung over one shoulder and plenty of ammunition, plus a loaded handgun and box cutter as side weapons, he was fully armed and ready to deliver another massacre on European soil in the name of jihad.

Except that it didn’t work out that way.

It Could Have Been Another Massacre

Two Frenchmen, who were nearby, saw the guy emerge from the restroom. They tried, unsuccessfully, to subdue him. At which point a group of three American friends — two of them off-duty military men — launched a split-second counterattack. Spencer Stone (Air Force) slowed the assailant down by grappling with him, sustaining multiple slash wounds as he struggled to get him into a chokehold. Alek Skarlatos (National Guard) grabbed the rifle away from the guy and slammed the muzzle into his head, immobilizing him. Their friend Anthony Sadler helped hold him down and tie him up with another passenger’s T-shirt.

There was a lot of blood and panic — but nobody died.

Nobody died. Think about that for a moment. In these days of mass shooters and rampant acts of terrorism, a jihadist armed with an automatic rifle and nine magazines totaling 270 rounds launches himself into a crowded train carrying more than 500 passengers. Intent on unleashing a massacre he fails to kill a single person.

Here’s what I find remarkable about this. Stone and Skarlatos were not there on patrol or acting as security forces. They were not there in any official capacity, and they certainly weren’t focusing on this guy. They were on vacation. So, they were focusing on fun and sightseeing. (Hell, Stone was sleeping when the attack began.) There is one and only one reason this situation didn’t become the tragic bloodbath that it so easily could have been: these guys had a particular kind of training.

They were trained to be situationally aware. If you want to read more about this incident you can read their book.

The Incident at JFK Airport

One year after that foiled train attack, almost to the day, I landed at JFK after a few weeks in Europe. I had just cleared customs and was waiting for my luggage when I heard a scuffle of people running and half a dozen officers burst into the area shouting, “Shots fired! Active shooter! Everyone run for safety — RUN!”

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