Train Hero Avoided Oregon Rampage Due to TV Show Rehearsal - NBC Bay Area
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Train Hero Avoided Oregon Rampage Due to TV Show Rehearsal

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    Alek Skarlatos Returns Back to Oregon College Campus After Shooting

    Alek Skarlatos, one of three Americans credited with stopping a terrorist attack on a train in August, left the "Dancing With the Stars" set when he heard about the massacre in Oregon. (Published Friday, Oct. 2, 2015)

    One of the heroes credited with taking down a terrorist on a French train would have been attending a class at a community college in Oregon when a gunman opened fire in a mass shooting if he hadn't been at a rehearsal for "Dancing With the Stars."

    Alek Skarlatos, 22, who was one of three Americans credited with stopping a terrorist attack on a train in August, bolted from the "Dancing With the Stars" set when he heard about the massacre and headed straight to Roseburg, Oregon, a community he calls home.

    "It takes a special kind of person to live here," he said. "It's kind of a tough place to make a living and it's a really resilient community and the people who are here are here for a reason. It's definitely a setback, but it's not going to crush this community at all."

    Skarlatos said he was going to take some classes Umpqua Community College if it hadn't been for the unexpected opportunity to appear on the hit reality TV show.

    Skarlatos said he would have tried to take down Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, 26, if he had been in the classroom when Harper-Mercer, an Army boot camp dropout who studied mass shootings, opened fire, killing nine people before he was shot dead in an exchange of gunfire with police.

    Skarlatos said he was with "Dancing" partner Lindsay Arnold when he received a text from a friend about the shooting. He said he then looked up the news on the Internet to confirm it.

    "I just sat down for a second and then hid in the bathroom so the cameras couldn't see me," he said.

    As far as he knows, none of his friends were among the victims.

    "My heart really goes out to the people who can't say the same," he said.

    Skarlatos and two friends, U.S. Air Force Airman Spencer Stone, 23, and Anthony Sadler, 23, received worldwide acclaim when they tackled the gunman aboard a train while vacationing in Europe. The heroics earned Skarlatos his stint on "Dancing With the Stars."

    The next installment of the competition airs on Monday. If he misses that show he would be eliminated under the rules.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.