Voices in Mourning

Newsweek, September 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

Voices in Mourning


The families of those who died are still grieving, each in their own way.

A New York City teacher, Talat Hamdani is a widow and mother of three. One of her children, Mohammed Salman Hamdani, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. He was a New York Police Department cadet and a certified emergency medical technician who responded to the attack on the World Trade Center on the way to his job as a lab technician.

Twenty-five days after 9/11 we decided to go to Mecca to pray to find Salman. Before we left I said I was going to call the morgue, because they were telling people on television to come and identify their loved ones. It took a lot of courage for me to make the decision to go and look at the dead bodies, but I said, "If I am going over to Mecca to get an answer whether he is alive or dead, let's look at the dead bodies; if he's among them, then I don't need to make the trip." Just for my own satisfaction I called the number the armory had given me. I don't know if I misdialed, but they asked, "How did you get this number? Why are you calling here?" I explained that I had been given this number by the armory for information if I needed to investigate my missing son's case. I gave him Salman's name, and he said, "Oh, he is a Pakistani?" I said, "Yes, he was born there, but he is an American."

On Saturday, when my husband, Salmeen, and I were going into Manhattan to the morgue, that detective kept calling us: "Where are you now? Are you going there? What are you doing?" But when we arrived there, it was the Red Cross; there was no morgue; there were no bodies to be identified. So why did they send me there? I don't understand. I wanted to see the bodies. And all the hospitals I called gave me the same statement: "We have fifteen victims; fifteen patients came in. We cannot give you their names, but your son's name is not on our list. And you are not allowed to see anybody to identify." No other parents had to go through what we had to go through. It was horrible. Such a great injustice. You give your life, try to save your fellow Americans, and then this nation goes after you, calling you a terrorist.

I want people of all nations to remember my son Salman as an American, and as a hero who gave his life saving his fellow Americans--He and the other people who died that day were killed not because of their faith or race or ethnicity, but because they were Americans.

Ann MacRae and her husband, Cameron, created a foundation that improves the lives of young people, the Cat MacRae Memorial Fund. Their daughter Catherine-Cat-was working as a financial analyst on the ninety-third floor of the North Tower at Fred Alger Management.

We had called Cat, but there was no answer-I think the call just didn't go through. We went into total shock. Of course we did. Our best friends came over. And a lot of Cat's friends, Princeton girls, came over. I remember going to the dining room window, and fighter jets went over all those little town houses down on the street, and I said, "Oh my God," because when it happens to you, you're not fully aware that it's an international incident. Fighter jets-you can't take it all in. But we knew the government was involved. There were a lot of young people here in our home, and every time the phone rang we thought, It might be Cat. I won't use the profanity, but I said, If I don't hear from her by four o'clock -- I'm not sure I said it would mean she was dead, but it would be bad. …

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