Monday, January 02, 2012

A Sad Crack To Fall Through

Imagine, for a moment, you're one of the first people to respond to a terrible tragedy. You have emergency medical training. You're there, helping people escape the flames and rubble. And suddenly, the tragedy compounds and the people like you, men and women whose only crime was to run towards a disaster instead of away, die.
You aren't on any of the official rosters of emergency responders, because you worked for a private ambulance company, not the official rescue services. You are a student in a law enforcement environment, but haven't applied to the police department because you're thinking of going to medical school.
It takes a while for official acknowledgement of your sacrifice, presumably because identifying remains was so difficult under the circumstances. When it is established that you are dead, you receive a hero's funeral, with dignitaries giving speeches and you receive full police honors.
A decade later, a memorial to the tragedy is erected, and mysteriously, your name appears, not on the official roll call, but as a footnote. As it turns out, you were actually considered a person of interest in instigating the tragedy, because you are Muslim, Pakistani, and hold a degree in biochemistry.
It's not clear that Salman Hamdani was denied a place among the official first responders because of the initial suspicions surrounding him, or his Muslim background, or whether he simply slipped through a bureaucractic crack because of his unofficial status-- which is both my guess and my fervent hope.
What is clear is he gave his life trying to make one small correction to the terrible misconception that America has deluded itself with: that Muslims hate us, fear us, and want to destroy us.
I'm sure that was not on his mind as he watched the towers burn and came to the fateful decision to help. I'm sure his only thought was for the people in those buildings, and those trying to get in to help them get out. I'm sure he didn't think, "Most of them are Christians or Jews." I'm sure he didn't think about whether those people were there officially or unofficially. I'm sure he merely thought "People in trouble, and I can help."
We should accord him the same decency.