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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Alum with perished loved one remembers 9/11 attacks

Published: September 13, 2012
Section: Features, Front Page

As Tuesday marked the 11th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on Manhattan’s World Trade Center and the destruction of the twin towers, commemoration services honor the lives of those who were lost, serving as an eternal reminder of the tragic event. Usman Yasin Hameedi ’12, a recent Brandeis graduate who lost a close friend in the attack, asserts that the anniversary “should be a day for us as a nation to come together in unity.”

At the mere age of 10, Hameedi suffered the loss of a close friend, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, who perished selflessly, sacrificing his life to help others while serving as a first responder to the scene.

Hameedi expresses the depth of his loss, revealing “Sal and I didn’t need to be kindred through blood for us to be brothers. Sal is my brother. I remember very vividly in my childhood, I would go to his parents’ store after work and hang out with him for hours.”

Hamdani’s and Hameedi’s families immigrated to America from Pakistan together, leading to the development of their close bond. Hamdani, whose bright future as an aspiring doctor was snatched away at the age of 23, rushed to the scene of the twin towers as an off duty EMT to offer his services.

“People talk a whole bunch. They say really powerful words without really understanding the implications of those words,” Hameedi said. “This wasn’t Sal. He embodied words like service and honor and dedication and empathy.”

As a child raised in the wake of 9/11, Hameedi brings to light not only the emotional trauma associated with the event, but the consequent trials he faced due to the discriminatory atmosphere that arose against Muslims. Just a mere few days following the attack and the loss of his close friend life, Hameedi recalls red meat being left on the stairs of his mosque, epitomizing the prejudices that still ravage the country in this modern age.

Beyond his own personal experiences, Hameedi denounces the way in which political figures monopolize 9/11 to promote their campaigns or cause divisions within the country, asserting such individuals ought to be “rebuked and castigated for perpetuating modern day McCarthyism.” Comparing the bombing to the Pearl Harbor, Hameedi expands upon this metaphor, likening the marginalization of Asian Americans to the treatment of Muslim Americans today, stating “it is especially disheartening when other groups, such as Sikhs, are under attack because of people’s ignorance.” Since the original devastation of the twin towers and the initial loss of approximately 3,000 lives, hate crimes continue to perpetuate the pain of 9/11, instigating divisions within the country.

Rather than succumbing to the negative implications of 9/11, including his unique experiences enduring racial stereotypes as a Muslim American and his own personal loss, Hameedi maintains that “the terrorist attacks were an attempt to show how divided we are.” He urges “Lets prove those who think our will is weak wrong. We can be a community that can embrace one another and help one another through times of grief.”

Gathering strength from his desire to honor Salman Hamdani’s sacrifice, Hameedi has dealt with the emotional trauma through his poetry and striving to become a physician in hopes of bearing a positive influence on the lives of those who surround him. Having graduated in 2012 with a major in biology, Hameedi is currently employed as a research technician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and plans to attend medical school in the future. As for his passion for poetry, Hameedi continues with performances and hopes to become an active member of the New York City Poetry slam circuit.

Acknowledging recent events that have resulted in an outpouring of grief within the Brandeis community, Hameedi particularly stresses the need to not only commemorate such losses, but to celebrate life as well. While he knowingly accepts that pain and life are intertwined, stating “Yes, there is inevitable sadness” he continues on to confesses “But there is much beauty as well” and urges students to “Cherish this beauty and its power to shine through even the darkest of moments.”

Brandeis commemorated the 11th anniversary of 9/11 by hosting a peace vigil, an event which bears particular relevance to the lives of students from New York who may have more impressionable recollections of the attack.

According to Father Walter Cuenin, the Catholic chaplain at Brandeis, approximately 50 to 60 individuals attended the service, which concluded with a moment of silence and singing.

Although the majority of students in attendance were still enrolled in elementary school at the time of the terrorist attack, vivid memories of the event remain impressed upon their minds. Echoing Hameedi’s desire for unity and compassion, Cuenin described the vigil, stating “we talked about building a world, not just a memorial to the past but a world of peace and justice so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”