September 11th, 2012
12:33 PM ET
By Susan Candiotti, CNN
You won’t find Mohammed Hamdani among the names of the first responders that are etched in a wall at the 9/11 memorial in New York.
But on the day of the 9/11 attacks, the 23-year-old certified EMT and onetime NYPD police cadet skipped his job at a university research lab to rush to the World Trade Center. Not long after, his family posted Hamdani’s picture on a wall of the missing.
Six months later, his remains were found - in 34 parts.
"They gave us his jeans and his belt, which my husband identified were his clothes,” says Hamdani’s mom, Talat.
"He was a prime example of what it is to be a human being,” she says, recalling his decision to go to the World Trade Center 11 years ago. “He went in there to save humanity."
When the 9/11 memorial opened last year, Talat wanted to see her son’s name grouped among the first responders who lost their lives trying to help others.
Instead, the Pakistani-American’s name is positioned in a separate section of the memorial, among those considered loosely connected to the World Trade Center.
His mother is convinced her son’s Muslim religion has set him apart: "They are discriminating because of his faith and that is not right."
“He did not stop to wonder are they Christian or Muslims or are they Jews or their ethnicity or their color,” Talat says of her son’s actions on 9/11. “It's just humanity.”
The memorial denies discrimination, saying Hamdani was no longer an active cadet when he was killed and that he had not received a presidential medal for valor, which the memorial says were the memorial’s criteria for “first responder.”
“So many of the names on the 9/11 Memorial represent individuals — both in and out of uniform, known and unknown — who displayed extraordinary bravery on that horrible day, and that includes Mohammed Salman Hamdani," a spokesman for the memorial said in a statement.
"While this case did not meet the criteria for the ‘First Responders’ section of the Memorial, that in no way diminishes the courage and bravery Mr. Hamdani and hundreds of others showed on 9/11,” said the spokesman, Michael Frazier.
At the same time, the NYPD calls Hamdani a hero, having honored him in 2002 with a police funeral that included full honors from New York’s mayor and police commissioner.
"The fact that it was acknowledged in a very, highly honorable fashion was gratifying,” Talat says, remembering that day. “I was very satisfied at that moment."
On the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD gave Hamdani’s family a badge.
Talat says she’ll keep fighting to move the name of her son, who grew up in New York and dreamed of becoming a doctor. She has contacted public officials from her congressman to the White House seeking help with her fight, but to no avail.
"I want to see it in my lifetime,” she says. “It's a very - it's so intense pain that is indescribable."
“He's not here to speak for himself,” Talat says. “I have to speak for him. And I will till the day I die. "
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.