Mohammad Salman Hamdani wore the number 79 jersey on the Bayside High School football team, but was tragically harder to identify amid the wreck of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Today his Pakistani-American mother, Talat Hamdani, has a request of President Barack Obama, on the day of his visit to the site.
Obama made a visit to the city Thursday afternoon, a gesture of shared mourning and solidarity with New Yorkers whose lives were forever altered on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I would definitely ask him— he got the Nobel Peace Prize twice—[if] it’s time to turn a new leaf for world and for peace,” said Talat. She believes bin Laden’s death could signify and ushering in of a new era.
Hamdani’s son, then a 23-year-old EMT, NYPD Cadet and research assistant at Rockefeller University, was on his way to the campus when he saw smoke coming from the Towers. He ran to respond to the scene.
Before laying a wreath at the final resting place of Hamdani’s, and about 3,000 other victims, Obama joined firefighters and former mayor Rudy Giuliani at Engine 54 firehouse in Midtown, which lost 15 members in the attacks.
While there, NY1 cameras caught the president making some off-the-cuff remarks.
“Obviously, we can’t bring back our friends that were lost. I know each and every one of you have grieved for them, but also tried to deal with their families and children, trying to give them comfort and support.”
When Hamdani went missing, some media outlets falsely connected him to the planning of the attacks. He was vindicated when his own body, along with his medical bag, was found among the World Trade Center remains.
His story was recounted in the teary testimony of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, at a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, initiated by Rep. Peter King, R- Massapequa Park. Ahead of the hearing, Talat had travelled to Washington to ask him not to hold the controversial hearings, which she called an “indictment of American Muslims.” He would not meet with her.
Obama did not linger at the event to make any formal remarks, but shook hands and traded words with members of the honor guard, family members of victims, and local politicians.
“The world had to pay a huge price as a result of September 11th,” she had hoped to tell the president.
Talat pointed to a, “suspension of civil rights and the Constitution,” and said, “America needs to come back to its original platform of liberty and democracy by restoring the rule of law at home.”
She was glad that bin Laden had been “brought to justice,” and believes it sends a message to enemies of America that they cannot hide. “We will hunt them out,” she said, adding, “the hope is to move on to peace and justice—this death has symbolically terminated an era of violence.”
“This is a great day, in terms of history,” said James McShane, 47, of Bayside, also at the event. Unlike Talat, McShane was lucky enough to have his first responder cop and firefighter buddies come out of the towers alive.
“It kind of puts a happy ending on the worst thing to happen in the past 10 years,” he said, adding, “It’s a little bit of closure, but we still got a lot of work to do.”
Park Slope Patch Editor Kristen V. Brown contributed reporting to this story.
Update, 8:58: Talat was invited to a private meeting with President Obama, with other families of 9/11 victims. "I thanked him as a mother for bringing this man to justice," she said. Talat, while she still disagrees with some of his policies, was overcome with emotion during the meeting, and expressed gratitude to him for his visit. "To know that somebody has come all the way here to share their pain with you, it is awesome. It was healing moment."