CAIRO - The family of a Muslim man who died while trying to save lives during the 9/11 attacks was shocked after receiving a notification that the name of their son would not be found among first responders at the National Memorial in Lower Manhattan, appearing next to a blank space with those with loose connections to the World Trade Center.
They do not want anyone with a Muslim name to be acknowledged at ground zero with such high honors, his mother, Talat Hamdani, 60, told the New York Times on Monday, January 2, at her home in Lake Grove on Long Island.
They don't want someone with the name Mohammad to be up there, the mother added with her voice filled with pain.
The story of Mohammed Salman Hamdani started when the 23-year-old police cadet died trying to save lives in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The mother got a notification from the Sept. 11 memorial in 2009 that Hamdani's name would be listed among those with loose connections to the World Trade Center where they died.
On 9/11, Hamdani, a certified emergency medical technician who spent a year volunteering for MetroCare, was traveling to work at a DNA analysis lab at Rockefeller University
Seeing the burning towers from the elevated subway tracks in Queens, he went down to help where he passed away while saving lives.
Searching morgues and hospitals for his body, it was not until October 2011 when two police officers knocked the family's door asking questions about their son, as a possible suspect.
His name was only cleared in 2002 when the family was finally informed that Hamdani's remains had been found in the wreckage more than five months earlier.
He was buried after the Sept. 11 attacks with full honors from the New York Police Department, and proclaimed a hero by the city's police commissioner. He is cited by name in the Patriot Act as an example of Muslim-American valor.
We have an example of how one can make the world better, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, one of the dignitaries who appeared at Hamdani's funeral, which was held with full police honors at a mosque off East 96th Street in April 2002, said of him.
Salman stood up when most people would have gone in the other direction, he added.
The fact the Hamdani was not recognized as a first responder was disappointing to many US Muslims.
Acknowledging Hamdani's role would be a great gesture to say to the community that we recognize that we have Muslim-Americans who risked their lives or lost their lives on that day, and for that we thank you, said Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab American Association of New York City.
With no section for informal rescue workers, or first responders, Hamdani's name could not find a place even with those sections for victims who worked together in the twin towers.
That's where the model falls down, said Thomas H. Roger, a member of the memorial foundation's board who was deeply involved in those discussions.
That was the sad part about it. If you weren't affiliated with one of the groups that had a constituency that was at the table, when we were carrying out all these negotiations, then nobody was representing your cause.
Another obstacle was posed by the Police Department which did not include Hamdani's name on its own list of the fallen because he was still a student, said Paul J. Browne, a department spokesman.
A police cadet is the equivalent of a paid college intern with the department, Browne said, and is not a full-fledged police officer or a recruit enrolled at the academy.
But that did not take away from Mohammad's actions that day, Browne said in an e-mail.
If anything, it magnified them. He didn't have to respond. It wasn't his job, but he did anyway.
Roger, of the memorial foundation, suggested if the Police Department could include Hamdani's name in their section of the memorial with an asterisk noting that he was a police cadet.
The Rev. Chloe Breyer, the executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York, also suggested some compromise.
It shows an enormous lack of imagination on the part of the NYPD and museum not to figure out a way to acknowledge adequately the special sacrifice he made and that his mother endures daily, she said in an e-mail.
Hamdani's mother, tired from calling politicians, even writing a letter to President Obama, said regardless of the memorial placement, pride was the overwhelming feeling she has for her son.
You are equal no matter where you are buried, whether your name is there or not, Mrs. Hamdani recalled saying as she stood before his name and the memorial's pouring waterfalls on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
By your actions the world remembers you.