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VOA Speaks to Malian Migrant Who Rescued Child from Paris Balcony


Malian migrant Mamoudou Gassama, center, with his older brother at right, holds his temporary residence permit after receiving it at the Prefecture of Bobigny, northeast of Paris, May 29, 2018.

A Malian migrant who came to France illegally is being dubbed "Spider-Man" and hailed as a hero after scaling a Paris apartment building to save a young boy dangling perilously from a fourth-floor balcony.

Modibo Dembele of VOA's Bambara service spoke by phone to Mamoudou Gassama about the dramatic rescue Saturday evening. The translated transcript of the interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Everybody saw your picture on TV and on social networks. What happened?

Answer: I was with my girlfriend, and we were going to watch a soccer game in a restaurant. We arrived at the restaurant and ordered some food. Before we started eating, I saw the crowd outside. Some people were screaming and drivers were honking. I went outside and I saw the 4-year-old kid hanging on the fourth floor. Thank God I didn’t think twice. I crossed the street and was able to run up there to save him.

Question: After you saved him, how were you feeling?

Answer: When I started going up, I got the courage to go save him. When I did, police arrived and put us both in a room. I was shaking and couldn’t stand on my feet. I was so shaken by what I did.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets with Mamoudou Gassama, 22, from Mali, at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday, May, 28, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, meets with Mamoudou Gassama, 22, from Mali, at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday, May, 28, 2018.

Question: How was your meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron?

Answer: I was very pleased. He called me and met with me. He asked me to explain how I did it [the rescue]. And I also asked him to help me. I left Mali through Burkina Faso, Niger and went through the Sahara Desert. Then I arrived in Libya, where I spent some time trying to find my way to Italy. 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.

Question: Macron said he will grant you citizenship?

Answer: Yes, he said that.

Mamoudou Gassama displayed a certificate of courage and dedication signed by Paris Police Prefect Michel Delpuech as he leaves the presidential Elysee Palace after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris, May, 28, 2018.
Mamoudou Gassama displayed a certificate of courage and dedication signed by Paris Police Prefect Michel Delpuech as he leaves the presidential Elysee Palace after his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris, May, 28, 2018.

Question: Many Malians are in the Sahara Desert, some are in jail in Algeria and in Libya. What do you have to tell them?

Answer: I pray to God that the way he [Macron] helped me that he helps other migrants the same way. Those who are in the Sahara Desert, may God help them go through. Those who are sea, may God help them arrive safely.

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