Bayside’s Mohammad Salman Hamdani was honored as a true hero of September 11th during his funeral last Friday at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.
In keeping with that tradition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly both attended the Manhattan ceremony and eulogized the 23-year-old research assistant who raced to the disaster scene to rescue victims and became one himself.
“We don’t know how many people he saved. But if you look at his life, you know he was determined to make a difference—and he did. He was indeed a hero,” Kelly said.
Hamdani, known as Sal to his friends, worked at Rockefeller University as a research assistant, trying to gain experience before going to medical school.
It is believed that he saw the terrorist attack while on the elevated Number 7 train on his way to work. He headed directly down there to assist and lost his life.
Hamdani was also trained as an EMT worker and had worked part-time as an ambulance driver.
Over 500 attended the service and heard the mayor say that the young man had tried to make the world a better place.
“Salman stood up when most people would have gone in the other direction. He went in and helped people.”
The police commissioner added the young man’s name to the 23 NYPD officers killed on September 11th.
For several months, mystery surrounded the disappearance of Hamdani. Rockefeller University is uptown on the east side, no-where near the World Trade Center. The family believed that he had gone directly to the World Trade Center. But a month after the terrorist attack, stories began circulating that his disappearance was being investigated by police.
Hamdani was born in Pakistan and moved here as a young child. A Muslim, he was an American citizen.
For some time, his mother, Talat, a middle school teacher, held out hope that her son was being held incommunicado for questioning by federal authorities.
In late October, police cleared Hamdani of any involvement in the attack. His remains were found that month but not positively identified through DNA testing until March 20th. Recovered near the north tower with the remains were a medical bag and his identification.
At last week’s ceremony, his mother said she was very proud of her son. “You have become immortal through your actions.”
Hamdani is also survived by two younger brothers and his father, Saleem, a candy store owner in Greenpoint.
He was remembered by one of his younger brothers, Mohammed Adnaan, as someone who liked to help others.
The mother reminisced about Salman’s love of the “Star Wars” movie series, so much so that his license plate read YUNGJEDI.
“My young jedi, you gave your life for the children of ignorance (the terrorists). He gave his life for America. Now America is honoring him.”
Frank Skala, president of the New Bayside High School Alumni Association, said his group would honor Hamdani, who graduated there in1995.
Hamdani was a graduate of Queens College, where he received a degree in biochemistry. Professor William Hersh recalled that he was well respected there.
He also was in the Police Department’s cadet program for three years but gave it up last April because of his research job. Many fellow cadets attended the funeral.