'Le Spiderman' hero joins fire brigade after French citizenship fast-track
In a society so often plagued with terrible news of misfortune and tragedy, it was refreshing to start this week with a story about a selfless hero who risked his own safety in order to save a child's life. Mamoudou Gassama, a 22-year-old originally from Mali, raced up the outside of a building in Paris - all in order to rescue a child who had somehow climbed over his balcony and got stuck hanging over the edge.
Footage of the incident quickly went viral, and has been viewed millions of times since it first surfaced on Monday.
But internet fame isn't the only thing Gassama has gained in the last few days.
Shortly after he was identified as "Le Spiderman" (as he is now nicknamed), Gassama began receiving praise and commendations from people in high places. It started with the mayor of Paris, who tweeted: "Congratulations to Mamoudou Gassama for his act of bravery that saved the life of a child," and later called the 22-year-old to offer her thanks.
After that, Gassama was contacted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and invited to the Elysée Palace. There, he was awarded a gold medal for "courage and devotion" and - perhaps best of all - honorary citizenship in the country.
Given the skills he showed in his courageous feat, Gassama was also given a position in Paris' fire and rescue service. He will start on a 10-month-long internship, and is expected to bring in around €600 (£525/$697) each month.
Considering he only entered the country a number of months ago, this is an outstanding result for the young man.
Speaking about his actions, Gassama said, "I just didn’t have time to think, I ran across the road to go and save him. Just climbed up and thank God — God helped me. The more I climbed, the more I had the courage to climb up higher — that’s it."
Meanwhile, the father of the boy is facing legal consequences for having left the child alone and in danger. Unbelievably, his reason for abandoning his son for so long was that he was out playing a video game.
"[The father] took a long time to return home because he had decided to play the smartphone game Pokémon Go when he left the store," explained François Molins, the prosecutor in the case. "He is devastated because he realizes what he did, and the tragic consequences that it could have led to."
In the days following the initial report, we have learned more about Gassama, and come to see how much he has suffered over the past few years. After leaving his birth country of Mali, he was arrested and beaten in Libya before escaping to Italy via a treacherous boat journey. He spent four years there, and only arrived in France at the end of 2017.
Despite residing in the country for a number of months now, Gassama was unable to find work because he did not have the proper documents, and had been forced to sleep on a floor in a cramped room with half a dozen others who were in a similar situation.
Now that the country has finally recognized his humanity, however, he is being looked after as he should be. Hopefully, other people who have migrated to France will receive the same kindness - regardless of whether or not they have superhuman abilities.