French Consul General Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, left, honors Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos during a French Naturalization Ceremony in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. The three men were heralded as heroes when they subdued an armed terrorist on a train in France in 2015. Today they were granted French citizenship. (AP Photo/Randall Benton)
The three Americans who thwarted a 2015 terror attack on a Paris-bound train were awarded French citizenship on Thursday during a special naturalization ceremony in Sacramento.
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone were aboard the 15:17 train to Paris in August 2015 when a terrorist attempted to open fire on passengers on the train. The trio was among a handful of people who helped tackle and subdue the assailant, whose assault rifle had jammed.
Police said the attacker, Ayoub El-Khazzani, had ties to radical Islam.
The three men received French citizenship on Sept. 12, San Francisco French consulate spokesman Matthias Carette told the Sacramento Bee. Thursday’s ceremony was a formality to award the three men their naturalization paperwork, including French birth certificates.
“Our nation will be enriched by your strength, your culture and your personal experiences,” said Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, the consul general of France in San Francisco. “Today, France is proud to welcome you into its rich history.”
Stone, who is a former Airman 1st Class in the United States Airforce, said they are honored to have been granted dual citizenship, which could open up the opportunity of possibly living in Europe in the future.
“We feel a certain connection with France,” he said. “It’s an honor that they’re opening their arms to us like that.”
In addition to French citizenship, the three men have been honored as heroes upon their return to the U.S. Then-French President Francois Hollande awarded them with the Legion of Honour.
President Barack Obama in 2015 honored Stone with an Airman’s Medal and Purple Heart, while Skarlatos – who was a member of the Oregon National Guard – received the U.S. Army’s Soldier’s Medal.
“Just having the opportunity to [become a citizen] after feeling so close to the people of France after what we took part in there and the few times we’ve been back — it’s just a humbling experience and I’m really thankful for it and I know the other guys feel the same way too,” Sadler said.
The three men wrote a memoir, “The 15:17 to Paris,” which was adapted into a 2018 film of the same name by director Clint Eastwood. The film featured the three men playing themselves.