by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)
The video footage is astounding: in a matter of seconds, young hero Mamoudou Gassama, scales four stories of a Paris apartment building to rescue a child dangling from a balcony.
According to washingtonpost.com, Gassama, a 22 year-old undocumented immigrant from Mali, is being feted as a French national hero despite having been in France for less than six months. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the city would support his effort to stay in France, and President Emmanuel Macron welcomed him to the Élysée Palace on Monday. According to Newsweek, Macron granted Gassama full French citizenship, and Gassama has also been offered a job as a firefighter in the French capital.
At a moment when life is becoming increasingly difficult for immigrants in France, Gassama — christened “Le Spider-Man” on French social media — has become an overnight celebrity after his Saturday night heroics.
“He explained to me that he arrived from Mali several months ago, dreaming of building his life here,” Hidalgo said via Twitter. “I told him that his heroic gesture is an example for all citizens.”
Gassama recounted the chain of events on Saturday night to France’s Le Parisien newspaper. Around 8 p.m., he was with his girlfriend in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, or district. As he was walking down Marx-Dormoy street, he saw a crowd gathered below a building, with people screaming and pointing up. Then he saw the boy, who authorities later said was 4.
“I climbed up to save him, voilà,” Gassama told Le Parisien. “I did it because it was a kid. I love children very much. I didn’t think about the floors,” he said, referring to the building he scaled. “I didn’t think about the risk.”
For many, the question was how the 4-year-old boy had managed to climb over the balcony’s railing in the first place. The child’s mother was not in Paris at the time, and his father, who had apparently left the boy home alone, was questioned by authorities, a judicial source told Agence France-Presse.