By Kathianne Boniello
Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 23, grew up in Bayside and spent his youth as a typical all-American kid, his family said.
A 1995 graduate of Bayside High School, Hamdani was a football player who joined the swim and debate teams, his mother, Talat Hamdani said. Sal graduated from Queens College, became a police cadet and was earning his master’s degree at New York University, his mother said.
On Sept. 11 Sal Hamdani left his 204th Street home for work and never came home. While his family spent the intervening months searching for him, his mother said, they also fended off rumors reported in the media that Hamdani, a Muslim Pakistani-American, was being held as a suspect in the terror attacks.
Last week the city medical examiner put the rumors to rest by identifying Hamdani’s remains from DNA evidence at Ground Zero, confirming that the Bayside man went to the scene of the terrorist attacks and verifying what Talat Hamdani said she felt all along.
Though the final evidence of her son’s death was “a shock,” she said during a telephone interview Tuesday, “we knew he had gone down there.”
During the initial weeks of her son’s disappearance, Talat Hamdani said the family believed he had gone to Ground Zero to help but also wanted to believe he was alive and safe.
At one point, she said, the family thought Hamdani may have been taken into custody by the government without their knowledge.
“I wrote a letter to the president that maybe….” she said, her voice trailing off. If her son had been arrested, Talat Hamdani said, “at least he would be alive then.”
She said the family was upset by news stories which suggested Sal Hamdani may have been connected to the terrorists, particularly an article in the New York Post.
As the Hamdani family plans Sal’s funeral, set for April 5 at the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, Talat Hamdani said the accusations made against her son in the newspapers “will be addressed.”
The Hamdani family hopes the April 5 funeral service “will give him all the respect that he deserves,” she said of her son.
A Baysider since 1989, Talat Hamdani said she came to the United States from Pakistan with Sal in 1979, when he was a yea-old. Her husband came over in 1978, she said.
Since the family’s ordeal Talat Hamdani said her family had gotten some measure of comfort from the federal government, which cited Sal Hamdani’s story in legislation last fall.
The USA Patriot Act passed on Oct. 26 is sweeping legislation designed to improve the United States’ ability to combat terrorism. It contains a section entitled “Condemning Discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans,” part of which included a clause dedicated to Sal Hamdani.
“Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani … who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing,” the legislation said.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.