Avella’s 9/11 motorcade remembers American heroes

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State Sen. Tony Avella (r.) hugs Jean Prevete after a moment of silence in honor of her son, 22-year-old James E. Prevete, in Whitestone. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jennifer Y. Wong Way is one of 25 intersections in Queens named in memory of the fallen from Sept. 11 where state Sen. Tony Avella placed a memorial wreath this week. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jean Prevete (l.) remembers her son James as state Sen. Tony Avella places a memorial wreath near her Whitestone home. Photo by Christina Santucci

Twenty-five street signs throughout northeast Queens sported red, white and blue wreaths this week in honor of Sept. 11 heroes, courtesy of state Sen. Tony Avella’s (D-Bayside) annual memorial motorcade, but one particular stop was added to the route just this year.

Bayside mother Talat Hamdani has been fighting for more than a decade to see her son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, included at the 9/11 Memorial site as a casualty of the attacks.

The Pakistani-born cadet and emergency medical technician died after he hurried toward the wreckage at the World Trade Center, but was misidentified as a terrorist when his remains were discovered at Ground Zero. The New York Police Department corrected the mistake soon after and the city gave him a hero’s burial.

And though Talat Hamdani has yet to achieve her main goal, the mother-turned activist celebrated a different milestone this year, pushing to rename the road where her family lived for more than 25 years at 204th Street off 35th Avenue.

The intersection, which should be officially named in Hamdani’s honor next month, was the latest of 25 stops mapped out along Avella’s annual memorial wreath tour. The senator stopped there Monday morning to publicly honor the man described by his mother as an all-American teenager, “Star Wars” fan and football player at Bayside High School.

“It took time for justice to be delivered. That’s the bottom line,” Talat Hamdani said. “I had to fight it. I really had to reach out, go out and speak up on his behalf. It’s nice to see.”

The senator and his staff fastened wreaths at intersections from Little Neck through Flushing, paying tribute to Queens natives who made the ultimate sacrifice. In Whitestone, a street corner was decorated in honor of 22-year-old James E. Prevete, who joined the U.S. forces after 9/11 and died in the line of duty nearly nine years ago while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“The men and women who went to work on 9/11 became martyrs in the cause of freedom, and the many firefighters and police officers that are on our motorcade today became heroes as they rushed into the two buildings to rescue as many people as they could,” Avella said. “And James went to war on behalf of all those people.”

Jean Prevete, James’ mother, became choked up as the senator and his staff fastened the decorative wreath to the street sign at the northeast corner of 147th Place and 5th Avenue.

“Jimmy always said he didn’t want to be forgotten,” Jean Prevete said. “And thanks to Tony, he won’t be.”

The hero’s friends and neighbors also paid tribute to his service in the form of a commemorative plaque, displayed proudly on the front porch of the Prevetes’ 147th Place home.

The motorcade also included recognition for Bayside’s Glenn J. Travers Sr. 9/11 Memorial Way, Firefighter Andrew Christopher Brunn Street, Arthur Warren Scullin Way, Capt. Vincent F. Giammona Way, Capt. James J. Corrigan Way, Lt. Peter J. Farrakopf Place and Michael D. Mullan FDNY Way.

Joining Prevete at Avella’s Whitestone stops were wreaths for fallen Firefighters Thomas Gardner, Scott Kopytko, Michael Cawley, Michael Carlo, Carl Asaro and Sergio Gabriel Villanueva.

Flushing stops included Dominick J. Berardi Way, Thomas A. Casoria Way, Michael J. Elferis Street, Michael Haub Road, Lawrence T. Stack Street, Thomas J. Shubert Avenue, Jennifer Y. Wong Way and William M. Feehan Triangle.

Firefighter Timothy M. Welty Street was Avella’s only Auburndale stop, as was Christopher Racaniello 9/11 Memorial Way in Little Neck.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 7:22 pm, September 12, 2013
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