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August 31, 2015

French-American Hero of Thalys Terror Train Attack Giving Interviews, Looks To be Healing Well

Mark Moogalian was the guy who reportedly yanked the AK away from the terrorist.

This interview resolves a lot of questions for me. There were reports that an unidentified Frenchman, said to be an off-duty trainman, was the first to engage the terrorist, and that a French-American pulled his gun away from him.

If claims that a man heard the chuck-chuck sound of the loading of a gun in the bathroom and investigated are true, then "Damien" must be the man who did this. But I don't know if that part is true; "Damien" hasn't spoken yet.

I began to doubt those reports because the timeline I imagined, based on fragmentary reporting, had the Americans acting first.

But Moogalian's account clears most things up. The Americans did not act first -- though they did act last (that is, they took out the terrorist, put him down, and hogtied his ass).

The initial reports about a French guy struggling with the terrorist, and the French-American -- now identified as Mark Moogalian, a professor of English at the Sorbonne, married to, I think, a Frenchwoman -- did in fact pull the AK 47 away from the terrorist. He didn't just grab it; he actually disarmed the terrorist.

Partially, and for a few seconds, anyway.


I'll translate some of the interview, but here's the timeline:

The unidentified man -- who Moogalian calls "Damien" and says is a French banker, not a trainman -- in fact did struggle with the terrorist first. (This is now published so there's not much use in my suppressing these details; it's even possible Moogalian is offering disinformation to protect "Damien's" real name and occupation.)

Moogalian saw the struggle through the doors separating the train cars. He told his wife "get out of here" and got up to help.

While the terrorist fought with this man I'll call, as Moogalian does, "Damien," Moogalian grabbed his AK away from him and began to run away with it. He cried out "I've got the gun!" as he ran.

However, Moogalian says sheepishly that he didn't have much "experience" with this sort of thing, and it did not occur to him the terrorist might have another gun. In fact, the terrorist had a pistol besides the AK (a Luger I think I read) and he shot Moogalian as he ran away with the gun. The bullet went through his shoulder and out the front side of his neck. He crumpled to the ground, bleeding profusely.

The terrorist, we can assume (though Moogalian does not say), must have shot or otherwise taken "Damien" out of the fight. Because now the terrorist began walking towards Moogalian in order to retrieve his AK.

At this point Moogalian felt himself getting weaker and weaker, but didn't think he'd get the courtesy of being allowed to bleed to death -- because he was pretty sure the terrorist would put a bullet in his head as he retrieved the AK from his unmoving body.

And then Stone, Skarlatos, and Sandler came flying out of nowhere.

The timeline now makes perfect sense. The early reports were correct; they were just fragmented and disjointed.

The interview is here; below, some translation.

Why did you make the decision to intervene when you saw, from your seat at the rear of car 12, a strange scene, on the other side of the doors?

Moogalian: I was reading on article on my cellphone when i saw this man enter the bathrooms with his big wheeled suitcase, I found it strange that he was in there for so long. Then I got up when I saw, without really seeing it clearly, that something was happening, that two men seemed to be fighting one another, one of them carrying something that looked like a gun. My brain didn't want to deal with this information but at the same time I said to myself "This man is going to kill everyone. I have to do something."

You had at the same time the reflex to tell your wife to get out of there?

I turned towards Isabelle [his wife] who, herself, was still seated, and I told her "get out of here." This must be serious. I wanted more than anything to protect her. She saw in my face that I wasn't joking. And then, I don't know how, I managed to pull the Kalcahinikov from the man.


Did you exchange words with him?

No, not at that moment. I saw only that he had olive skin. [PROBLEMATIC-- ace.] I was relieved, I left car 12 getting away from him crying out "I've got the gun!" (j'ai la arme). I was satisfied... but not very experienced because I didn't think that he might have a a pistol in addition. I took four or five steps and I felt a pain that almost knocked me unconscious, a shock that knocked me forward. I crumpled to the floor and I dropped the Kalachnikov.

Were you able to keep on watching what was happening?

A little. I was between two rows of seats, another passenger against me. I felt my shirt become drenched with my blood. I tried to look and I saw Isabelle, a few rows away from me. We stared at each other, eyes locked. I told her, "I'm hit. I'm done for." I saw nothing but her eyes. In the past, since as along as I remember, I had always thought: "When my time to die comes, I want to do it well, without any fear." Well, here it was. I saw that Isabelle was about to burst into tears.

During this time, the American military men threw themselves into the fight with Ayoub El-Khazzani. How did you react?

I saw two people virtually jumping through the air to join the fight. It thrilled me to see these people throwing themselves into it. In the meantime, the man [the terrorist] had retrieved his Kalachnikov and I saw him coming towards me. I said to myself: "He is going to turn to his left, see me, and put a bullet in my head." It is very hard to describe, all going very quickly but, at the same time, it was like a movie going in slow-motion. I closed my eyes to await my death.

You thought you were going to die?

The pain of the wound... It was like a fire throughout my body. I couldn't manage to keep my head up. I began to sort of dream. I was no longer in the train. I saw a wooden house, painted white, like where i lived as a child. And I saw my mother who I lost on June 20th, two months ago, with her 60s-style granny glasses... but a little voice inside myself said "You are weaker and weaker. Open your eyes!" After Spencer Stone (one of the American military men, rescuers) busied himself with me. He did not stop talking to me in order to keep me awake. He said to me: "Oh, you are from Virginia? I'm from California! Listen, buddy, you are a hero. You have saved a lot of lives. When all this is over, we are going to drink a beer together." I didn't know how to respond. My wife spoke to me as well. She looked so beautiful to me. We had just come from spending some wonderful days in Amsterdam....

People say that these acts of bravery can serve as an example, such that, faced by a terrorist, passivity is not a good plan. What do you say to that?

We need to be attentive. That's how it is now with these attacks.

Bonus: Apparently Spencer Stone trained with some Brazilian Ju-Jitsu school in Lisbon.

These guys claim they're doing a "breakdown" of the moves Stone used to take the terrorist down. They do not explain Skarlatos' "Muzzethumping" maneuver.

While this video is cool, I have no idea how they claim they know Stone did this or that. They are very specific that he used a rear naked choke -- how do they know that? Has anyone read an account with that degree of specificity?

Well, I don't know where they're getting all these claims, but whatever, it looks likable to me.



Corrected: I changed some wording, sometimes for readability, sometimes because I just translated it wrong (I took "plu" to be the past participle of the word for "to cry;" in fact it's the participle of the word for "to be pleased").

Should be okay now.

digg this
posted by Ace at 01:28 PM

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