3 July 2018

Malian 'Spider-Man' Joins Paris Fire Department

The immigrant from Mali, dubbed "Spider-Man" after he scaled a Paris apartment building to save a young boy dangling from a balcony, has begun working for the city's fire department.

Mamoudou Gassama, 22, captured international attention when he scaled four stories of a building's exterior to save a 4-year-old boy who had managed to climb over a balcony and was dangling above a street.

At the time, VOA's Bambara service interviewed Gassama, who described what happened. He said he and his girlfriend had just ordered food when he saw a crowd gathering outside.

"Before we start eating, I saw the crowd outside. Some people were screaming, drivers were honking. I went outside and I saw the kid hanging on the fourth floor," he told VOA. "Thank God I was able to run up there to save him. ... When I started going up, I got more courage to go save him.

After he reached the child, and police pulled them both into a room, "I [started] shaking and couldn't stand on my feet. I was so shaken for what I did," Gassama said.

Soon after a video of Gassama's heroic deed went viral on social media, he was invited to meet with President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace.

Macron offered the undocumented immigrant French citizenship, awarded him a gold medal for courage and suggested he become a firefighter.

Gassama told VOA that he asked the French leader for help.

"I told him I left Mali through Burkina Faso, Niger and went through Sahara. Then I arrived in Libya, where I spent some time trying to find my way to Italy," he said. "The first time I tried to take a boat, I was caught by authorities and was put in jail and then deported back to Niger. I tried a second time. Thank God, I made it to Italy."

"I pray [to] God to help other migrants the same way He helped me. Whoever is migrant, I pray for him to be successful. Those who are in the Sahara desert, may God help them go through. Those who are at sea, may God help them arrive safely," Gassama told VOA.

Macron, who has supported a bill to tighten France's immigration law, has said there is no disparity between rewarding Gassama for his act of bravery and holding firm on immigration.

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