(RNS) It’s been five years now that Talat Hamdani has been able to talk about her son without crying, but she still prefers mostly not to tell his story.

“It’s all over the Internet,” she said.

(August 26, 2001) Salman Hamdani, an NYPD cadet and EMT who was killed on 9/11. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani

(August 26, 2001) Salman Hamdani, an NYPD cadet and EMT who was killed on 9/11. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

She’s stopped talking about how she initially didn’t worry when her son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, who was a cadet with the New York City Police Department, didn’t answer his cellphone that night; about how police questioned her and her husband when authorities couldn’t find their son’s body, to see if he had any terrorist connections; about the New York Post headline a month after the attacks — “Missing – Or Hiding? – Mystery Of NYPD Cadet From Pakistan,” that cast him as a suspect in the 9/11 attacks.

She’s mostly stopped talking, but she’s still fighting for the recognition she says is due her son.

Hamdani’s remains were found five months after 9/11 at Ground Zero, next to his medical kit. He had been headed to his job as a research technician at Rockefeller University in midtown Manhattan but apparently detoured to the World Trade Center, voluntarily, to help.

Hamdani received full police honors at his 2002 funeral, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly both praised his heroics. His name was cited in the Patriot Act as an example of Muslim American valor, and on the first anniversary of 9/11, Kelly presented Talat Hamdani with a police shield in her son’s honor.

NYPD officials promised they would “always be there” for her. “But everybody disappeared,” she said.

Hamdani’s name was left off the NYPD’s official 9/11 memorial, and there’s no mention of him in the list of 441 first responders on the National September 11 Memorial in lower Manhattan. Instead, his name is etched with others on the panels surrounding the spot where the South Tower originally stood.

Talat Hamdani with President Obama at the 911 memorial on May 5, 2011. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani

Talat Hamdani with President Barack Obama at the 911 memorial on May 5, 2011. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

His mother didn’t find this out until 2009, when she was mailed the official National Memorial package. “It was a shock.”

She called memorial organizers and was told they based their decision to list Salman on the list of victims “loosely connected” to the attacks because his name wasn’t on the NYPD memorial, erected several years earlier.

Salman’s two younger brothers, Zeshan and Adnaan, knew about the omissions but didn’t tell their mother for fear of breaking her heart.

“I told them they should have told me right away, because I would have started fighting long ago.”

Hamdani wrote three letters to Kelly; an NYPD spokesman told her her son was not on their list of 9/11 fallen because he was a cadet, and hadn’t worked for several weeks at the time of the attacks. His mother countered that he was still an NYPD employee when he was killed, at the age of 23.

Since then, Hamdani has written politicians and President Barack Obama, lobbied memorial organizers and other groups and spoken on television, all to no avail. But she hasn’t given up.

“I won’t find peace until this thing is resolved with justice. He gave the same sacrifice as the other police officers did, why is he not acknowledged as such?”

Salman Hamdani's NYPD cadet photo, taken in the fall of 1998 when he joined the force. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani

Salman Hamdani’s NYPD cadet photo, taken in the fall of 1998 when he joined the force. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Some people suspect the NYPD has left Hamdani’s name off their memorial because it would mean having to pay compensation to the family, just like they did to the families of other fallen NYPD members.

“I think this is a major factor, but it should not be. His sacrifice is no less than the others,” said Hamdani.

She suspects there is another reason.

“If his name had been anything but Mohammad, it would have been a different story,” she said.

The NYPD did not reply to requests for comment.

Hamdani said a lawyer has contacted her, offering to file a lawsuit against the NYPD for discrimination. She said she prefers to wait until New York City has a new mayor and new police commissioner later this year, and see how they respond to her pleas.

“This should not come to the point of having to take legal recourse,” she said.

In the fight to get her son properly commemorated, Hamdani has also emerged as a leading voice against Islamophobia. She publicly denounced Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican and then-chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, for holding hearings on Muslim radicalization in 2010. She’s squared off against opponents of a proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, including other 9/11 families, and has spoken out against the NYPD’s warrantless surveillance of mosques and Muslim businesses and organizations.

She also believes that other Muslim families who lost loved ones on 9/11 were questioned by police who thought their lost loved oned might have had something to do with the attacks.

“They went and questioned each and every one,” she said. “That’s why no one else is speaking up (about Islamophobia).”

Talat Hamdani at the 911 memorial. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani

Talat Hamdani at the 911 memorial. Photo courtesy Talat Hamdani


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Rockefeller University, where Hamdani worked, created a scholarship in his name. And like other Twin Tower victims, who have had streets renamed in their honor, Salman may have the street in Queens where he lived named in his honor.

“Her story was very disheartening,” said Jerry Iannece, a lawyer and chairman of Community Board 11, in Bayside, Queens, which voted unanimously for the renaming, now pending before the City Council. “It was clear she believed in what she was doing, and we believed with her.”

He added: “It’s not an ethnic thing. He was one of our own, he wasn’t an outsider. It was a wrong that we could correct. It was the least we could do.”

Although she acknowledges her battles have taken a toll on her physically and mentally, Hamdani said she has more than enough energy to keep fighting until her son’s name is included on the NYPD and first responders memorials.

“Salman is not here, I cannot see him in flesh and blood, but I say to everybody, spiritually, we are reunited,” she said. “I am his voice, and he is my strength.”

4 Comments

  1. Michael Burke

    It was not “Islamphobia” (there is no such thing) that resulted in this mishandling of Hamdani’s name on the memorial. It was the fundamental stupidity of the memorial designers and officials. They did not want to identify any of the rescue workers in any way; to this day the memorial does not include the words “firefighter” or “police officer.” They did not want to identify Fire Chaplin Father Mychal Judge in any way ( a Roman Catholic priest; “Catholic” phobia anyone?). They did not want to group the people from the towers who worked and died together, 9/11 together. It was the families fighting them tooth and nail that accomplished all this.

    Nobody is against mosques in the vicinity of Ground Zero. They are already there and have been there. No one cares. The “Ground Zero” mosque, however, was an attempt by disingenuous, self serving phonies to impose their false point of view upon the site and visitors. It’s defeat was a victory for truth and justice.

    “Isalmphobia” is not the problem in America or the world today. See Boston, marathon bombing. See Nidal Hassad, Ft. Hood shooter. See the Times Square would be bomber and the subway would be bomber. Nobody holds 9/11 or these acts against anyone but the criminals or did them. What Muslims should be working on is eliminating the violent, crazy sect among them. That is the real problem.

  2. What should be comforting to Talat, the mother who lost her son on September 11, a most fateful day, is that her son has the hope of a resurrection back to life on earth during Jesus’ millennial rule in the near future (John 5:28,29), to be reunited with her and her family on a cleansed earth. God’s word, the Bible, makes it very clear that God’s kingdom or heavenly government, of which Jesus, God’s son, is King, will set all matters right on this planet, including resurrection of those we have lost to death, throughout all nations on earth, during that rule. Even sickness, old age and death will be done away with (Revelation 21:1-4), and wickedness will no longer exist (Psalms 37:10,11). So Talat, along with the rest of meek mankind, have something marvelous to look forward to!

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