By now the story is well known. On the evening of Friday, August 21st, three Americans, Spencer Stone, 23, Alek Skarlatos, 22, and Adam Sadler, 23, childhood friends on holiday in Europe, were snoozing on a Paris-bound train when they heard a noise like shattered glass and turned to see a man enter the carriage with an assault rifle. Several things happened in an instant: “I saw [the gunman] had an Ak-47 and it looked like it was jammed – he was trying to charge the weapon,” Stone told reporters. “Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said ‘Let’s go!” and I ran down, tackled him, Alek ran up and grabbed the gun out of his hand while I put him in a chokehold.” The gunman, a 25-year-old Moroccan, Ayoud El-Khazzani, fought back, pulling weapon after weapon, including a box-cutter which he used to slice at Stone, wounding him in the neck and hand. Meanwhile Sadler, following his buddies into the fray, “beat [the shooter] until he was unconscious.”

The Americans weren’t alone. An Englishman, grandfather-of-three Chris Norman, “pounced on the gunman’s arm” so he couldn’t use a pistol he had pulled while Skarlatos muzzle-thumped him with the Kalashnikov. When the gunman finally lost consciousness, Norman and an off-duty train driver bound him while Skarlatos searched for other shooters. Stone, himself severely injured, tended to another passenger, Mark Moogalian, who was shot in the throat while scuffling with El Khazzani in the neighboring carriage. Stone staunched the heavy bleeding by jamming his fingers into Moogalian’s neck, compressing his arterial wound.

From El Khazzani authorities recovered 270 rounds of assault rifle ammunition, an automatic pistol with a full cartridge, the box-cutter, and a canister full of gasoline. Over 500 passengers were aboard the train.

This is a great story. A necessary story. It should be told to our children over supper. And again over breakfast. And every day until it becomes a part of that lore with which we nourish our young and which they cherish as a part of their patrimony. And every time we retell it we must, ourselves, attend to it closely for this story is also a greatly clarifying story. It helps to brush aside much of the twaddle that passes for contemporary moral wisdom, including within the Christian culture. But precisely what has it clarified? Three things, primarily…

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