PARIS — Armenian-American professor Mark Moogalian who was hailed as a hero by President Francois Hollande for his “courage” was shot while trying to disarm a gunman wielding an AK-47 aboard a high-speed train, according to his wife.
Moogalian is a member of a family of Armenian descent with deep roots in Virginia. Relatives operated a grocery for many years in the Hopewell area.
“We couldn’t be more proud,” said an uncle, Harry Moogalian. He said in an interview Monday morning that the family is still trying to sort out the sequence of events that left the author and musician shot and hospitalized. Moogalian said the family here is still awaiting word about his nephew’s condition.
Moogalian, a 51-year-old English professor at the Sorbonne, spotted a suspicious passenger while traveling on the Amsterdam to Paris train Friday.
“My husband told me that he had seen someone strange because he had entered the toilets with his suitcase and it lasted a long time,” Moogalian’s wife Isabelle told Europe1 radio Monday. “A little while later the guy came out and that’s when he saw that the guy was carrying a gun.”
Isabelle Moogalian, who was also aboard the train, said her husband spotted the gunman “being grabbed from behind by a different person” — thought to be a 29-year-old French banker who has chosen to stay anonymous.
Mark Moogalian told his wife to “go” and then “rushed towards the gunman to remove … the Kalashnikov.”
She added: “I did not see my husband get shot, it happened too quickly and I was pretty much hiding behind seats. But I look at my husband through the seats at an angle and he looked straight at me and said, ‘I’m hit!’ … There was blood everywhere. I ran towards him and I could see that he had a wound on his back, I then saw another wound by his neck.”
Isabelle Moogalian recounted racing through the train searching for a doctor, screaming: “Help me! Help me!”
In the next carriage, she found three vacationing Americans and a British businessman who were subduing the gunman.
She credited Spencer Stone, a 23-year-old U.S. airman who had been traveling through Europe with two friends, for saving the life of the professor of English.
“He put his finger on my husband’s neck wound to stop the hemorrhaging continuing and he stayed in this position during the whole voyage,” she told Europe1.
The American trio and the Briton stripped the suspect of an AK-47, pistol, a blade and a bag of ammunition. The 26-year-old Moroccan told a lawyer that he only intended to rob “wealthy people” on the train.
Hollande presented childhood buddies Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler and British businessman Chris Norman with the Legion d’Honneur — France’s highest honor — on Monday morning.
In addition, the French president praised Mark Moogalian for his “courage” in intervening during the attack. He was still being treated in the French city of Lille for his neck wound on Monday.
Isabelle Moogalian also described her husband as “hero,” adding: “Thankfully we had the … military guys on the train. Otherwise we’d all be dead.”