Joan AurittJoan Auritt

Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, friends from middle school vacationing in Europe, were relaxing on the train from Amsterdam to Paris on August 21, 2015 when they were startled awake by screams and breaking glass. We know the outcome: these three brave Americans stopped a terrorist from killing over 500 people on that train.

I remember so clearly hearing the first news reports about this terrifying event, hoping that I didn’t know anyone on that train and wondering who the heck those soldier-heroes were.

Fast forward to the following August, and Auritt is recruited by publisher Public Affairs to media train the young heroes as they head out to promote their book, a tell-all account of the harrowing event.

Into our offices on a hot Sunday, almost a year to the day of the event, walk Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler. Their third partner, Alek Skarlatos was away attending sniper school and unable to participate in the book tour.

We expected big, burly tight-lipped soldiers who were “just doing their job” on that train––charging and tackling a gunman pointing a loaded AK-47 at them. But these three young men on their first trip to Europe together were such unlikely heroes that the story was made all the richer.

We were struck by how open, friendly and down to earth they were, clearly characteristics also noticed by filmmaker Clint Eastwood, who tapped them to play themselves in the just-released "The 15:17 to Paris" feaure film.

These three laid back California boyhood friends, could never have predicted a day when they would be singled out as American heroes and the focus of the international spotlight.

Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos have more than overcome their early jitters and have gone on to appear on countless TV, radio and online programs. Skarlatos was even on “Dancing with the Stars." Now all three are pursuing acting careers after starting at the top in a Clint Eastwood film.

We are delighted to have been part of their journey.


Joan Auritt is President of Auritt Communications Group in New York City. She can be reached at [email protected].