PARIS — The weather in Paris was rainy and gray, but for three Americans ending their European vacation in the most unexpected of ways, the gilded halls of the Élysée Palace must have felt bright enough.
President François Hollande of France on Monday awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, to Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23; Alek Skarlatos, 22, a specialist in the Oregon National Guard; and their friend Anthony Sadler, 23, for their role in stopping a gunman on a high-speed train traveling to Paris from Amsterdam on Friday.
“One need only know that Ayoub El Kahzani was in possession of 300 rounds of ammunition and firearms to understand what we narrowly avoided, a tragedy, a massacre,” Mr. Hollande said at the ceremony, referring to the suspect in the attack, a Moroccan who is in police custody and denies that he had planned to stage a terrorist attack.
"Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration,” Mr. Hollande added. “Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that.”