An All-American Jedi
More than anything else, Mohammad Salman Hamdani wanted people to see him for who he truly was, not for who he seemed to be.
He was an American citizen, and he hated it when his two younger brothers teased him by saying, "Why don't you go back to Pakistan," where he had been born. He could not say the same to them because they were born in the United States after his family immigrated when he was 13 months old.
He wanted to be seen as an all-American kid. He wore No. 79 on the high school football team in Bayside, Queens, where he lived, and liked to be called Sal. When he graduated from Queens College in 2001 and did not get into an American medical school, he refused to apply to schools in any other country. He told his parents he intended to be an American doctor.
He became a research assistant at Rockefeller University and drove an ambulance part time. One Christmas he sang in Handel's "Messiah" in Queens. He saw all the "Star Wars" movies, and it was well known that his new Honda was the one with "Yung Jedi" license plates.
And yet, some people continued to see him as something he was not. After Mr. Hamdani, 23, disappeared on Sept. 11, ugly rumors circulated: he was a Muslim and worked in a lab; he might have been connected to a terrorist group. Months later the truth came out. Mr. Hamdani's remains had been found near the north tower, and he had gone there to help people he did not know.
And then, at last, everyone could see Mr. Hamdani for what he truly was.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on March