The Heroes of 15:17 to Paris Discuss God's Greater Purpose
- Ryan Duncan
- 2018 7 Feb
On August 21, 2015, a man boarded a train for Paris with the intent of committing an act of violence. Wielding an assault rifle, he opened fire in the train carriage and succeeded in injuring four people. Yet miraculously, through the actions of several brave passengers, the attacker was subdued and no loss of life occurred. Among the passengers were three American friends, two of them off-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces: 23-year-old Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23-year-old Anthony Sadler, and 22-year-old Specialist Alek Skarlatos. It was these three who tackled and disarmed the assailant, and now these lifelong friends will be the subject of Clint Eastwood’s new film, The 15:17 to Paris.
In an interview with Crosswalk.com, the three friends explain how God was at work during that fateful day, and how He has continued to support and encourage them throughout the filming process. Be sure to check out their amazing testimony, along with an inside look at The 15:17 to Paris!
Each of you has referenced how God had a hand in the events on that train. Could you maybe describe how your own personal faith has been affected by this project?
SPENCER: I was raised in a Christian home, my entire life. Went to church every Sunday with my mom, brother and sister, and Wednesday night church too. I believed my entire life. GOD for me is someone that’s always there and always will have my back, whether it’s a good or bad situation. And it’s in the Bible, HE’s not going to put you through anything that you can’t handle.
I think that’s what I fell back on in the moment on the train. I didn’t necessarily at that second think, GOD’s got my back, but I knew it. There was an opportunity to do something good. I believe those are the times where we’re vessels to be used by HIM, to do HIS work. It was an honor to do something that good.
ANTHONY: I’ve been going to church all my life. My dad is a pastor. He became a pastor when I was older. We were a strong Baptist household. We went to church every Sunday, all the services. My family is Christian, faith-believing and, I’ve grown up that way. As far as on the train that day, GOD had HIS hand on us, because so many things could've went the other way for us.
The fact that things went the way they did, it’s divine intervention. It’s that by definition. We knew HE had HIS hand on us, because of the calm that we had us as we were falling into our different roles that day - looking back on it in hindsight. That calm, I know where that comes from now that I’ve had a chance to evaluate that day. I’m thankful that HE had HIS hand on us that day.
ALEK: I’ve grown up next to Spencer’s family. We went to the same church for the longest time. We all met in a Christian school. I’ve been to church pretty much ever since I can remember. If you look at the statistics of everything that happened, the odds of being in a terrorist attack are astronomical, the odds of surviving it, the odds of surviving it and being the ones that stopped it. There’s so many little circumstances.
The odds of our exact situation happening to us are too astronomical to believe that it was purely chance, especially when you look at the fact that we were thinking about staying in Amsterdam another day and we didn’t. The fact that we moved seats from coach to first class. So many different little things that are hard for even us to remember - all the different circumstances that put us there in that exact time and place. It’s too coincidental to be chance. GOD had a hand in it, because we shouldn't be here today to be honest.
Looking back on those events, do you believe God prepared you to be in the right place at the right time?
There’s an amazing quote by G.K. Chesterton, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Do you think that holds true for this movie?
SPENCER: I had a moment later, on a separate incident, I was in the hospital. I listened to this guy die in the room next to me. When the nurse came in I asked what he died of and he said pneumonia. Then I asked how old he was, and the nurse said he was 18 years old. And at the time I was in the ICU, and had six tubes hanging out of me. I got literally stabbed in the heart.
I remember that was one of the first times I broke down emotionally. And I was really confused. This kid dies of pneumonia at 18 years old and I survived a terrorist attack and get to continue living my life. And so, it leaves me with this feeling of, okay, I’ve got, if I’m lucky, 60 mores year in me. And what am I going to do? I want to do this life justice. This is a positive story to spread. And that’s our own way of owning it.
We live in a very dangerous and polarizing time. What advice would you give to viewers about standing up to evil in everyday life?
SPENCER: I think the movie will inspire viewers to get out of the bystander mentality and step up when they need to. You see people’s first reaction these days to pull out their phone and record someone who needs help. I hope this inspires viewers and their first reaction to be to help them.
ANTHONY: The fact that we were able to portray ourselves and we actually did what we’re portraying. It’ll show people that it’s possible that you can act when you’re faced with a situation like that. The fact that we got to play ourselves and people see us do what we actually did. Hopefully they’ll think, these are three ordinary guys and they did something like that.
Finally, what kind of journey do you hope audiences, specifically Christian audiences, will take away from The 15:17 to Paris?
ANTHONY: I want people to take away exactly what it is. The fact that we’re three ordinary guys that were faced with an extraordinary, crazy situation. And the reason why we acted the way we did that day is because of our friendship, the back story matters. And then take away that they can, as people, a regular person, do something great too. To feel like things are possible that they previously didn’t think were possible.
SPENCER: I think if anything, our story shows that heroes can be ordinary people. And we all are people.