Lassana Bathily, the Malian-origin man who saved lives during the shooting at the kosher store in Paris.
When Amedy Coulibaly pumped bullets into the bodies of four innocent customers at the Jewish store in Paris, another immigrant was busy convincing the police he was there to help. Both were young and of Malian origin, but that's where the similarities end.
Lassana Bathily, was just an employee at the Hyper Cacher grocery store till a few days ago. Now this 24-year-old is undoubtedly among the heroes of a terrifying siege that France has witnessed in decades.
He was in the basement when Coulibaly, the terrorist, stormed into the store, a Kalashnikov in hand. He heard firing and saw many petrified faces coming running down to the basement. "People came in screaming- they are here, they are here.. the terrorists have entered the shop," he recalled, speaking to a local TV station, "That's when I realised someone had come into the shop."
Given that there were some many in the basement, Bathily suggested they hide in the cold storage area. "Some of them had started to panic. So, I told them to a stay calm... and said go into the cold storage and we can shut the door."
But Bathily himself decided he would make an attempt to escape. He also suggested the same to the others but didn't force them since they were scared. He took a service lift to safety but spent the next hour and half convincing the police he was there to help. He came out with his hands in the air, was made to lie down on the ground, then up again, before the police believed him.
Given the circumstances where a Mali-ian origin man was holding unknown number of hostages at gunpoint inside, here was another trying to convince them of his innoncence. "I decided to leave," he said matter of factly, "If I had not, the police would not have known that there were so many hiding in the basement. So I took the risk and its paid off." Only when other employees vouched for his credentials, did the police finally take his help. He helped the police to prepare a floor plan of the store, with details like the location of the office and cash counters so as to help them get a clear idea of the layout.
Asked if the police apologised for not believing him earlier, he said, "No, they didn't say sorry, but I knew I hadn't done anything wrong."
When a TV anchor asked him how he has a Muslim, had helped Jews, he replied calmly, "I am a practicing Muslim. I say my prayers in the store, daily. And yes, I helped Jews. We are all brothers. It's not a question of Jews, Christians or Muslims. We were all in the same boat, there to help each other get out of that crisis."