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Queens Chronicle

City finally honors 9/11 Bayside hero

After 13 years, Muslim American memorialized in street renaming

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Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Thu May 8, 2014.

It took 13 years, but a mistake has been rectified, according to area officials, with the renaming of a Bayside street on Monday after a Muslim-American who died in the 9/11 attack in Manhattan.

Mohammad Salman Hamdani was 23 on Sept. 11 and on his way by subway to his job as a research assistant at Rockefeller University, when it is believed he saw the World Trade Center towers get hit and rushed to the scene to help, where he perished.

Hamdani, who grew up on 214th Street, was born in Pakistan, but moved to the United States as a toddler with his family. He was an EMT and a police cadet. Soon after the attack, authorities thought he might have been involved in the terrorist plot.

His body was found a month later, near the North Tower, but his family wasn’t officially notified until the following March, following DNA testing. A medical bag and identification were found with the remains.He eventually received a hero’s funeral, attended by the mayor and police commissioner.

The young man’s mother, Talat Hamdani, has fought for recognition of her son and said Monday that the reason it has taken so long to honor his memory with a street renaming was “prejudice and racism against the Muslim-American community.”

But her bitterness was tempered by Monday’s ceremony. “Community Board 11 deserves accolades,” the still-grieving mother said. “I am humbled, honored and proud. It’s a sad day and a victorious day for Muslim Americans.”

She called the street renaming “a turning point,” fighting back tears, adding: “The city needs to recognize him as a police cadet when he made his sacrifice. A grave injustice was made to him, but it’s rectified now.”

Another son, Zeshan, who now lives in Brooklyn, told the Chronicle he is the youngest Hamdani brother and that Salman, known as Sal, was six years older. “He took me shopping and we played games,” he said. “He had very high moral standings and always did the right thing.”

Zeshan Hamdani said Sept, 11 was the day before his 18th birthday and that he had called his brother on that fateful morning, but that Salman had left his phone at work.

He remembers his brother as very compassionate and someone who went out of his way to help others. “On the road, he would always stop to help people whose cars had broken down,” Zeshan Hamdani said. “I was worried that he might get hurt, but he said ‘so be it.’”

He added that his brother’s message was to be altruistic and help each other: “We have to stay focused and help everyone out.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) told the family that when her sons are old enough to understand, when she drives them by the new street sign on 35th Avenue and 204th Street, “I will explain his heroism, which is well deserved.”

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) called Hamdani “a true hero,” who selflessly ran downtown to help out. “My parents and I have lived in Bayside all our lives and we couldn’t be prouder that a truly remarkable person came from our community.”

Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said losing a son and brother is “the greatest sacrifice” and that Hamdani’s death and the subsequent street renaming “is a true testament to New York City where we welcome everyone.”

CB 11 member Jerry Iannece, who as former board chairman was instrumental in promoting the street renaming, said the facts of Hamdani’s death and the initial suspicion were “so compelling and heart breaking” when they were brought to the board’s attention a year ago. “We recognize when we make mistakes and rectified it today.”

Speaking for Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing), aide Munir Avery noted that he himself is a Muslim American, and said that Hamdani’s accomplishments were not recognized in the past. He thanked Talat Hamdani for her son.

An American citizen, the honored hero was a graduate of Bayside High School and Queens College and hoped to go to medical school. His father died two years after 9/11. His mother now lives in Lake Gove, LI.

Talat Hamdani says she has a third son “who prefers to grieve in private” and did not attend Monday’s ceremony.

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