On November 13, Bley Bilal Mokono took his son Ryan to the Stade de France for a football match. They did what a lot of people do before a sporting event: stop to use the restroom and get food. It was then that Mokono came face to face with a man who was about to try to bomb the stadium, one of six attacks across Paris that night that killed 130 people.
Through a translator, Mokono, a Muslim, recounted the night to CNN’s Chris Cuomo. He said when he left the restroom, he saw a man whose beard was dripping with sweat.
“He was anxious, disturbed, questioning what he was doing.”
While Ryan was in the restroom, another man rushed by. Mokono thought it was strange, but didn’t think much of it, until he saw the first man again. He jostled Mokono’s shoulder as he brushed by, and Mokono knew something was wrong. As he bit into his sandwich, the bomb went off just 20 feet away.
Mokono was propelled backward but he got up and walked back to the brasserie entrance where he saw the bomber’s body.
“It was carnage.”
An injured woman was lying nearby, so Mokono went to help. As he picked her up, a second bomb went off. He managed to bring her to police, and then went back to find Ryan. Mokono describes the search for his son as “painful,” saying the longer it took, the harder his heart beat.
Mokono cried at the hospital, thinking he did not do enough to stop the terrorists. He said he has a lot of regrets about not intervening, but takes solace in the fact that there was not more destruction. And now he promises to help raise awareness about his fellow Muslims, and their differences from the people who commit acts of terror.
“You cannot conflate a Muslim with someone who has lost their mind, who has lost all sense of meaning in their life.”
At the end of the interview, Mokono had one request for Cuomo, similar to what Muslims across Paris are asking for.
“Can I give you a hug?”