A young man from Mali is being praised as a hero after he scaled an apartment building to save a child dangling from a balcony. President Emmanuel Macron on Monday rewarded the young man’s bravery with an offer of French citizenship and a job as a firefighter.
“Bravo,” Macron said to 22-year-old Mamoudou Gassama during a meeting in a gilded room of the presidential Elysee Palace where Gassama also received a gold medal from the French state for “courage and devotion.”
Gassama climbed five stories up the apartment building, moving from balcony to balcony, and whisked a 4-year-old boy to safety on Saturday night as a crowd below screamed. His actions went viral on social media, where he was dubbed “Spider-Man.”
Gassama said he has authorization to stay legally in Italy, which is where he landed in Europe in 2014 after a more than a year in Libya and a trip across the Mediterranean Sea. He came to France in September to join his older brother, who has lived in France for decades.
Dressed in tattered blue jeans and white shirt, the young man recounted for the president what took place after he and some friends saw a young child hanging from a fifth-floor balcony.
“I ran. I crossed the street to save him,” Gassama told Macron. He said he didn’t think twice. “When I started to climb, it gave me courage to keep climbing.”
God “helped me,” too, he said. “Thank God I saved him.”
Gassama said he trembled with fear only after he had reached the boy, gotten him safely back over the balcony railing and taken him inside the apartment.
The father of the child was detained overnight for alleged parental neglect, and is to appear in court in September. He left the child alone while he shopped, then lingered to play Pokemon Go, Prosecutor Francois Molins told BFM-TV. The whereabouts of the child’s mother were unclear.
“You saved a child. Without you, no one knows what would have become of him,” the president said. “You need courage and the capability to do that.”
Macron offered to begin the naturalization process to make Gassama a French citizen and said, “Because this is an exceptional act … we are obviously, today, going to regularize all your papers.”source