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‘I thought I was going to die, Midlothian grad details french terror attack

Posted at 11:05 PM, Nov 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-04 06:31:35-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- It was August 21.

"We were on our way back on the train," said Mark Moogalian, Paris train hero and Midlothian native.

It was a Friday night around 5:45.

"I didn't want to believe what I was seeing," said Moogalian.

He was on a high speed train bound for Paris.

"Was this a bad joke?" said Moogalian.

Mark Moogalian's vacation was about to come to a terrifying and bloody end.

Mark Moogalian

Mark Moogalian

"I thought I was going to die," said Moogalian.

The Midlothian native's life would temporarily be derailed.

Days earlier the accomplished musician and his wife were taking in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam with their dog Buddy.

A multi-talented artist and Professor at the University of Paris, Moogalian strummed his first guitar at age five but really started rocking during his teenage years in Chesterfield County.

"I started really getting into playing a lot in high school at Midlothian High School with my friends," said Moogalian.

It was his love for music that took him from Virginia Commonwealth University to Europe after making his mark on the RVA music scene.

It's in Paris that he met his wife Isabelle. The love of his life and bandmate, he knew he needed to protect on that train that fateful night after he noticed a suspicious man carrying luggage into the train's bathroom.

"I was seeing a guy standing in the bathroom door with his shirt off with an AK 47 hanging on his side," said Moogalian.

Moogalian would confront the alleged terrorist and bravely wrestle away the AK-47, but as he ran with the weapon to warn his wife and the other passengers, he collapsed.

Mark Moogalian and wife Isabelle

Mark Moogalian and wife Isabelle

"When you feel this utter pain go into your back what were you thinking?" asked CBS 6 Reporter Laura French.

"I knew immediately what had happened.  I knew I had been shot and I thought I was going to die," said Moogalian.

"You're shot, you're lying on the ground and what did you say to your wife?" asked French.

"My eyes met with my wife's and I told her I'm hit, and I said in French "c'est fini", it's over, because I thought I was going to die.  I wanted her to know I wasn't afraid," said Moogalian.

Neither were the other three Americans who hog tied the suspect.

But it was US Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Mark will never forget.

"What do you say to someone who actually stuck his fingers in your neck to save your life? How do you thank somebody?" asked French.

"We've got a bond.  That was a very very special moment and I don't think either one of us will ever forget it and I can never really fully thank him," said Moogalian.

Spencer Stone

Spencer Stone

As for Moogalian, the accolades have come from France's highest office to back home in Central Virginia. The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors honored Moogalian in a resolution at its October 28 meeting.

"What do you want to say to the folks here in Central Virginia who have been rallying around your progress?" asked French.

"I'm really proud to be from Chesterfield and my heart goes out to all of those who supported me throughout this whole ordeal," said Moogalian.

But this ordeal is far from over for Moogalian.

"The bullet entered behind the left shoulder.  It broke two ribs and came out and cut the jugular in doing so it created a hemotome that ended up causing a lot of nerve damage," said Moogalian.

Moogalian is undergoing daily rehab.

He's lost feeling in his left arm and his guitar for now.

MARK MOOGALIAN

Mark Moogalian

"Try to make this situation an opportunity to discover other ways of making music," said Moogalian.

As he fine tunes his new normal he will hit a few high notes along the way.

French President Francois Hollande will award him the Legion of Honor in January.  That is the country’s highest honor for the hometown hero determined to get back on track.

Moogalian hopes to make it back to Midlothian for the Christmas holiday to visit his dad and brother.

In the meantime, he will spend this time writing music and trying his good hand at other instruments.