PARIS (CBS News) — 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.”