By Sarina Trangle Times Ledger
Every December, family members gather to honor Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Bayside police cadet who died after rushing to assist at Ground Zero September 11, 2001.
But when the Hamdanis marked his birthday Dec. 28, they had something to celebrate: The mayor had recently signed off on plans to name a street in his honor. The city will designate a stretch of 204th Street near Hamdani’s former home between 34th and 35th Avenues “Salman Hamdani Way” this spring, according to his mother, Talat Hamdani.
“It’s a great accomplishment and recognition of this young man who gave his life,” she said. “He would be 36 years old.”
But the retired Queens middle school teacher described the tribute as a first step. She said the NYPD has treated her son, a Muslim American born in Pakistan, with prejudice since he disappeared following the terrorist attacks and has since refused to add his name to the official 9/11 Memorial for first responders in Lower Manhattan. Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an NYPD cadet and certified emergency medical technician, skipped his job at a research center and reported to the World Trade Center to help amid the rubble September 11. He died at 23.
Authorities erroneously believed Hamdani might have been colluding with the terrorists when he could not be found after the attacks. His family was notified of his death five months after his remains were uncovered.
At that point, the Police Department cleared Hamdani’s name and gave him a hero’s burial. Talat Hamdani, who moved to Long Island in 2007, spent years mourning her son and her husband, who died of cancer in 2004.
Her family established a scholarship in her son’s name at Queens College, where Hamdani studied. But when the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks approached, Talat Hamdani learned her son’s name had not been included on the 9/11 Memorial during an interview with a journalist. “Bloomberg said, ‘Oh, the reason may be your son is not on there is because he was a part-time worker,'”
Hamdani said. “What would happen if it was Bloomberg’s own child who was a cadet or Ray Kelly’s child who was a cadet? They would go first, on top of the list.”
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
The mother requested the street sign in Hamdani’s honor at a Community Board 11 meeting last winter. CB 11 voted unanimously to support her proposal. Hamdani said she will continue to push for her son’s name to be added to the memorial by requesting a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “How can I give up? My son gave his life,” she said. “He’s not here to defend himself.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also signed off on renaming a Bayside street for Geraldine Cilmi, a now-deceased science teacher at PS 41, at 214-43 35th Ave. Thomas Fennell, a freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia School of Music and Art and Performing Arts who proposed the tribute as a seventh-grader, said he was eager to see 214th Lane between 34th and 35th avenues call “Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place.” “She was a very good science teacher,” he said. “She liked kids that do things with their hands, and I’m one of those. She retired and then after that, she passed away, and I learned about it and wanted to do something.”