Talat Hamdani has spent the last five years fighting for her late son, Salman, to receive the proper recognition he bravely earned Sept. 11, 2001.
In an emotional ceremony held this week, Salman was finally honored by the city of New York for his sacrifices as a first responder to the World Trade Center attacks by having 204th Street in Bayside renamed after him at the intersection right outside his childhood home, at the corner of 35th Avenue.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) joined Salman’s family and elected officials who represent the area as he unveiled the new street sign in honor of Salman, a Pakistani-American who was serving as an EMT and an NYPD cadet when he lost his life responding to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
When Salman died in the attacks, he was originally accused of being a terrorist who was believed to be involved in the tragedy because he was of Muslim faith and his body was not found until five months later.
After Salman’s family was notified, his name was cleared by police and he was given a proper burial with full police honors in April 2002, but his mother has been fighting ever since to right the remainder of the wrongs.
After a five-year battle that Talat Hamdani said was prolonged because of his race and faith, Salman’s mark was finally placed on the community to forever display the courage he showed.
“While the rest of us were in shock that day, others ran and performed heroic deeds,” Vallone said. “On this day, we ask everyone to remember the heroism of the family and what Salman Hamdani did for us, going into the building and rescuing without care or concern for himself.”
Salman came to New York with his parents when he was 13 months old, would later graduate from Bayside High School, and had just earned his degree from Queens College a few months before he died. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was on his way to work when he heard of the tragedy taking place at the Twin Towers and immediately made a detour to see what he could do to help, his mother said.
His remains were later found outside the North Tower, next to his medical bag.
Since about 2009, Talat said she had written dozens of letters to the city and made even more phone calls, trying to get her son the recognition she said he was denied because he was a Muslim. Last year, after receiving a resolution, Community Board 11 voted unanimously to approve the renaming of the street where Salman lived for 11 years.
Talat said Salman’s name is still not listed on the first responders memorial at Ground Zero, but the five-year-long battle to secure the street renaming is the first step toward rectifying the injustice she said has been done.
“None of the first responders questioned the race or faith of the people they were going to save,” Talat said. “Salman learned to walk and talk here and he was a very proud American and I knew one day he would make a great name in the world.”
Talat said her son was a kind and compassionate man — a man who loved “Star Wars” so much that the license plate on his car read “Young Jedi.” She said he was a humble person who would be happy to see the honor being given to him only because it made his mother proud.
Salman’s brother, Zeshan, was one day shy of his 18th birthday when he lost his older brother, and he said he is happy to see Salman’s name forever implanted in the Bayside community.
“He went there that day not as an EMT or an NYPD cadet, but as a human trying to help,” Zeshan said. “We have to remember people like him. It’s the only way to better ourselves and our future.”
Talat said she will continue fighting to amend other memorials that left out her son’s name because of his religion, including the one at Ground Zero. But she said the street renaming was a small victory not only for her family and her son’s legacy, but for Muslim-Americans who she said have suffered a stereotype long enough.
“To challenge an injustice is patriotism,” she said.
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
©2014 Community News Group
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