The streets of California's capital city were awash with American flags and signs reading "Sacramento proud'' on Friday as hundreds celebrated three hometown heroes who foiled a gunman's attack on a European passenger train.
A parade and party honored college student Anthony Sadler, Oregon National Guard Spc. Alek Skarlatos and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, childhood friends who tackled a gunman on a French high-speed train heading from Belgium to Paris three weeks ago.
A float reading "Sacramento Hometown Heroes'' carried the men, who said they didn't feel like heroes but were grateful for the revelry. The lunchtime mood was festive with marching bands; classic cars; red, white and blue balloons; and lots of confetti.
"We love Sacramento, and we never thought anything like this would happen,'' said Stone, 23.
Each of the men took the stage on the steps of the California Capitol briefly following the parade.
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"This support is amazing and we all love you,'' Stone said, "and like Anthony said, we don't want to forget why we're gathered today.''
The men have become widely lauded figures and sudden celebrities, making appearances on late-night talk shows, receiving a congratulatory call from President Barack Obama and earning France's highest honor from President Francois Hollande.
The parade was held to honor the trio and remember victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. A moment of silence was held for those who died 14 years ago. A C-17 Globemaster out of Travis Air Force Base flew overhead before the men spoke.
Robert Greer, 69, watched the floats and said the city was very proud.
"This is about the most exciting thing I've even seen happen in Sacramento,'' Greer said. "What a tremendous thing they did for France and our country, too.''
Mayor Kevin Johnson called the turnout "unbelievable.''
"We just want our kids to grow up to do their part, and they went above and beyond,'' Johnson said before introducing the men. "We cannot be prouder as a city than we are right now, Sacramento.''
French Consul General Pauline Carmona in San Francisco thanked the men, saying, "The people of France as well as the whole French community in California will never forget what you have done.''
After the friends foiled the attack, Sadler, 23, a senior at Sacramento State University, appeared to cheers on NBC's "The Tonight Show'' with Jimmy Fallon. Skarlatos, 22, has been booked to appear on the next season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars.''
Stone, who has been acclaimed for his aggressive role in disarming the gunman, has kept a lower profile so far after receiving medical treatment for a lacerated thumb and other injuries at a military base in Germany.