Dressed in polo shirts and khakis, the three Americans who subdued an armed attacker on a Paris-bound train on Friday were today handed what CNN calls France's "highest recognition": the Legion of Honor. "Three Americans and one Englishman ... you risked your lives to defend an ideal, the ideal of liberty and freedom," said French President Francois Hollande in the Elysee Palace of US Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Brit Chris Norman. The honor comes as another seemingly innocuous but ultimately paramount detail was reported by the Washington Post: It seems the three Americans were unable to locate their first-class seats upon boarding, and so they selected seats elsewhere. Had they remained there, the story could have had a much different outcome.
Instead, Sadler tells the Post, "We decided to get up because the WiFi wasn’t so good on that car. We were like, 'We have a ticket to first class. We might as well go sit in first class." He estimates they made the move about 30 minutes after leaving Amsterdam, a decision that landed them in the car with alleged gunman Ayoub el Khazzani. It wasn't the only apparent stroke of luck. In comments made yesterday, Skarlatos said the gunman's AK-47 and Luger pistol were seemingly jammed. "He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever. If he had known what he was doing, or even just got lucky and did the right thing, he would have been able to operate through all eight of those magazines." (Stone says he woke from a deep sleep and realized it was do or die; his thumb was nearly severed in the attack.)