Lassana Bathily’s calm, cool thinking saved lives in the Hyper Casher attack on January 9, 2015.

The 15 or so hostages he sequestered in the cold room in the supermarket’s basement will be eternally grateful to him for saving their lives. Two young children, a baby and a toddler, were among them.

Calls came nearly immediately for the French government to recognise his brave act with an honour.

The government granted him French citizenship, a passport and a medal on Tuesday, January 20.

Bathily, a practising Muslim, was born in June 1990 in the northwest of Mali. The eldest of three children, he moved to Paris in 2006 to be with his father.

Between 2007 and 2009, he attended technical school in the 19th arrondissement and obtained a diploma qualifying him to work as a tiler. His English teacher Alexandre Adamopoulos remembers him as ‘always smiling, disciplined, participating’.

Bathily intended on pursuing a professional qualification but realised that he needed to work.

In 2009, the French government refused him papers allowing him to stay. As he had arrived illegally, he was told that he would have to leave the country by the end of 2010. He told his technical school teachers. They were able to help him obtain the proper permit in 2011, which he had renewed annually as required by law.

In July 2014, Bathily applied for French nationality. By that time, he had been working for Hyper Casher for four years.

On January 9, 2015, after making sure the group in the basement of Hyper Casher were safe, he left the shop via the goods lift and went in search of the police. At 1:30 that afternoon, they handcuffed him, believing him to be an accomplice of Amedy Coulibaly. He went on to supply the special forces police — the RAID — with details of the building, hostage locations and the store layout as the siege progressed.

Afterward, Bathily received public thanks in speeches by Benjamin Netanyahu and John Kerry. Petitions went online for official recognition.

French president François Hollande personally telephoned Bathily to say that his request for naturalisation:

would be treated with the respect that his heroism merits.

It did not take long. On January 20, at 6:30 p.m. Bathily received French citizenship in an impressive ceremony at Place Beauvau, where the Interior Minister’s offices are.

The ceremony took place in Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve’s large reception room. Le Monde reported that it was full of journalists, VIPs, representatives from the major faiths, various government ministers, including Cazeneuve and Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Both Valls and Cazeneuve spoke to and about Bathily. Cazeneuve gave him two books about France, one of which is a collection of photographs.

Bathily, somewhat overwhelmed by events, listened whilst looking at the floor. Then it was his turn to speak. He told the ministers and audience:

I’m not a hero, I’m Lassana and I’ll stay that way.

He added that the loss of his colleague — and friend — Yoan Cohen deeply affected him:

I lost someone I liked a lot, someone with whom I shared a lot of laughs.

In a televised interview, Bathily said:

It could be a Christian, an atheist or a Muslim, if I see a bad person killing, it hurts me. I didn’t just do it for the Jews. It’s simply inhuman. You can’t let an innocent person be killed.

Of France, he stated:

I like this country because even if you have nothing, even if you don’t have your papers, don’t have money, they help you. It’s a great country. I really like France.

Would that more citizens felt that way.

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