Paris Train Hero: 'I Immediately Recognized What Was Happening'

Alek Skarlatos, who helped stop a gunman on a train in France, talks to "GMA" after his return to the United States.
6:30 | 08/28/15

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Transcript for Paris Train Hero: 'I Immediately Recognized What Was Happening'
We'll begin with an ABC news exclusive. We're very excited about this. An American hero right here in our studio this morning. Alek skarlatos is one of the three Americans who helped take down a terrorist on a French train last week. He just got back here to the U.S. We're going to talk to him. There he is in just a moment. But first a look at his welcome home. A hero's homecoming stepping foot in America for the first time since his life-saving actions, his family in tears. The whole airport cheering for army National Guard specialist alek skarlatos. New York City police officers lining up to salute him. This coming just one week after what was supposed to be a european vacation for three childhood friends. Instead, the unimaginable, while on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, a man appeared armed with an ak-47. Alek hit me on the shoulder and just said, let's go. Ran down and tackled him. Reporter: Skarlatos along with Spencer stone and college student Anthony Sadler becoming international icons receiving France's highest medal from the French president telling the trio they gave the world a lesson in courage well and hope and president Obama reaching out to commend and congratulate them for their courage and quick action. And it is an honor to welcome Oregon army National Guard specialist, give it up for alek skarlatos. Get used to it. Get used to it. Thank you. I appreciate it. It truly is a privilege and I hope you feel all that has come your way. All across not just America but the world. How about that homecoming at Newark airport yesterday. That was unreal. I was so grateful for everybody that showed up for that. It was just amazing. That many law enforcement officers showing up for that was just -- it meant a lot to me for sure. I know you're able to see your mother before you returned to the U.S. But it was the first time you got to see your dad and rest of your family. You're not really a hugging family but there were a lot of hugs there. There was, yeah. And what was the first thing you wanted to say them when you saw them? I mean, I just said it was nice to see them again, especially my older brother peter, it's been about a year and a half since I've seen him. I haven't seen him since I got back from Afghanistan so it was nice to see him. All the way around. How is your friend Spencer? He's still stuck in ramstein but he is doing great in high spirits. Yeah, he just couldn't be here today, unfortunately. Go ahead, take a sip. Is all this settling in? I know you said originally of course it was a nightmare when it was happening and now it's just surreal and a dream, the reaction from everyone all around the world, has it settled in a bit? Absolutely not. No. No, I mean, like I said, I mean, even that night I thought they would just question us and put us on the next train to Paris. I didn't think it would be this big at all. We see you and your friends receiving the highest honor from the French president. You know what president Obama has said about you, as well, and it just seems like you are -- part of it is that you all are so humble. You're not really wanting this type of attention at all. Take us back, though. What was going through your mind when you first saw the guy on the train and the fact that he was armed? Well, I mean I immediately recognized what was happening and I just thought there's just no way. There's no way this is happening right now. I just thought -- the odds but I mean really that's the only thought I had because I couldn't believe it was actually happening and then we just acted and I didn't have another conscious thought for the next two minutes. Then we saw he was hog-tied there. Was that a conductor's tie? I mean how did you all -- That was actually Chris Norman, the british guy, he was the one who did most of the tying up. He gathered up neckties from passengers and scarves and things like that and he was the one who did the tying job on him. That was really good. What was everyone doing when all this was happening? The response from everyone else on the train? Well, everybody behind the terrorist just ran back about two or three cars and then everybody in our train car either helped out in some way or just kind of sat there in shock. Because you just -- you never think it's going to happen. Oh, absolutely not. People want to know, is it because you're proud, you just got back from Afghanistan, thank you for your service there and what you're doing with the National Guard and people want to know, was it kind of like the military training kicking in too or just doing what you wanted -- had to do? Honestly, like I said we didn't have a conscious thought for the whole first two minutes so it was pretty much a gut reaction just acting on adrenaline doing what we had to do to survive. Training kind of kicked in after he was already down and Spencer started providing medical care on mark shot through the neck and I grabbed the ak and looked through the other train cars in case there was anybody else. Once we were able to think again that's when training kicked in but before that we were trying not to die. I know. That's what you said. As simple as that and what goes along with it, the gratitude of everybody on the cover of "People" magazine and that's the one that you said -- I think we have a copy of that. Have you seen it yet? Oh, yes, I saw pictures of it, yeah. That's again, also just unbelievable like -- How does that happen? Exactly. I have no idea. So what do you do now? What happens now? I have no clue. I'm probably going to go back to Germany, hang out with Spencer. Good. It's all up in the air at this point. I don't even know what I'm doing once I leave here, frankly. Well, we know what we're going to do right now because as we said, the president of France honored you and you also met the Belgium prime minister and there was something about chocolates that you had mentioned, sol Belgian chocolates so we though thought -- we thought it's the least that we could do, the best Belgian chocolate and it's a word that's thrown around much too much, hero and I know you're very humble and your friends but thank you again for the service you do for this country, what you did on that train and just giving us something to feel good about. Next time it's happening I'm going to be too fat to do anything. I think you'll be just fine. Thank you, and now to ginger

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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