#HeroesWithoutCapes Mamoudou Gassama: The Real Life Malian-French Spiderman Who Scaled A Building To Save A 4-Year-Old Dangling From A Balcony

#HeroesWithoutCapes Mamoudou Gassama

Empathy. Instinct. Bravery. Confidence. Honour.

What sets apart a man from another? What makes a man dare to tread where others fear? Destiny? fate? Does every man have his path already carved out or is that path, a function of our choices?

The act of heroism isn’t a call to honor via genes, the fact is, no one is born a hero. Contrary to popular belief, heroism isn’t inbuilt, heroes are everyday people who genuinely care about the well-being of others and instinctively put aside self in the face of danger and adversity to meet a need, thereby making a world of difference.

Dubbed ‘Spider-Man’ of Paris, Mamoudou Gassama, a Malian-French citizen, skyrocketed to limelight in May 2018 following his heroic act of braving up and swiftly scaling a four stories
building of a Parisian apartment block,(18th arrondissement of Paris) lifting a four-year-old boy hanging from a balcony to safety within 30 seconds right in front of an astonished crowd. Gassama was hailed a national real-life hero.

Apparently the boy’s father left him unattended to go shopping. He was subsequently charged with leaving his son unsupervised.

No surprise, the Malian-French citizen’s act of bravery catapulted him to celebrity status and fetched him a string of awards, including the former immigrant’s fast track to French citizenship in September 2018. He was awarded the Médaille d’honneur pour acte de courage et de dévouement and offered a role in the fire service which he subsequently took up.

“I never thought at any time in my life I would meet the president or go to the Elysée Palace,” says Gassama. “It was like I was dreaming.” Macron told him that he was a hero, and thanked him on behalf of the French people. “And he told me that I should train to become a fireman because what I did is like the work of a fireman.”

Mamoudou Gassama grew up in a village in south-west Mali, the fifth of eight children. At 15, he moved from his village to Bamako, the Malian capital, while there he worked as a builder to make money to travel to Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast. While still a teenager, he crossed Burkina Faso, Niger, and then entered Libya, traveling through the Sahara desert in a four-by-four vehicle.

“It was very hard, especially when we arrived at the border between Niger and Libya,” he says. “You are in the car but sometimes you have to get out of the car and push it, and to walk in the desert. You don’t have much water, it’s very hot, the sun is right above you. Some people don’t make it to Libya, they die on the route.”

Gassama’s first attempt, in 2013, to cross from Libya to Italy by boat didn’t go as planned. “When the border officers found me on a boat in the sea they put me in jail.”

On living conditions in Libya; “It’s very hard for immigrant people in Libya,” he says. “I did it and so I know how hard it is to take this path. Libya is very difficult for black African people. They beat you, they put you in jail, they kill some people, and they put some people in slavery too. There is a lot of racism there.”

Gassama’s second attempt to reach Italy was successful, he spent a month in Sicily at Italy’s largest refugee camp, before proceeding to another migration-center in Rome.

Gassama who had two older brothers living in Paris, after three years living in Rome, went to join them. He arrived in 2017.

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