“While I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time in August aboard a train bound for Paris, I only wish that the same could be said for today.”
Those were the emotional words shared on Thursday by Alek Skarlatos in the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The 22-year-old National Guardsman is credited, along with two other Americans, with stopping a gunman on a Paris-bound train on August 21.
Skarlatos, who is currently a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars,” grew up in Roseburg and is an alumnus of the school.
TMZ.com reports that Skarlatos was in a rehearsal for the ABC reality show when he received the news about the shooting at his alma mater. He “immediately left the studio … and was making calls back home to make sure his friends were safe."
Skarlatos later said on Twitter that he was returning to Oregon.
Skarlatos was awarded both the U.S. Army's highest non-combat medal, the Soldier’s Medal, and France's highest decoration, La Légion d'honneur, for thwarting the alleged terrorist attack last summer. In a statement released on Thursday, he said his “heart and prayers go out” to the Oregon community.
“I was enrolled as a student at Umpqua Community College prior to my 2014 deployment to Afghanistan,” Skarlatos said, per E! Online. “While I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time in August aboard a train bound for Paris, I only wish that the same could be said for today.”
“I praise the first responders who were on the ground today in Roseburg as they undoubtedly were integral in saving numerous lives and putting a stop to what could have been more than tragic than it is,” Skarlatos continued. “My heart and prayers go out to this community, my community, right now.”
On Thursday morning, a gunman, identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, allegedly opened fire at Umpqua Community College. At least 10 people were killed and seven others wounded, The New York Times reported.
Responding to the shooting, President Barack Obama expressed his frustration and sadness.
"Somehow this has become routine," Obama said from the White House. "We've become numb to this."
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the mass killing is the 45th shooting at a school so far this year.
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