It has been 22 years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As we reflect upon the events from that day and mourn the tragic loss of life, we also remember the heroes. The story of one 9/11 hero is the subject of a new documentary film cocreated by Mohammad Khalil, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan State University.
American Jedi: The Salman Hamdani Story is a story of heroism and one mother’s struggle to honor her son and break down barriers for Muslim Americans in the post-9/11 world. It is the story of Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old devout Muslim and proud Pakistani American who was a New York City Police Department cadet and emergency medical technician. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Hamdani hurried toward the Twin Towers to aid victims. In doing so, he sacrificed his own life to save the lives of others.
“This is a film that I imagine will interest a wide variety of people,” Khalil said. “In the film, we encounter new perspectives on the 9/11 tragedy — so there’s an intriguing historical dimension. This is also a compelling story about a family that has endured so much and a mother whose perseverance and optimism are indescribable.”
In the weeks that followed the 9/11 attacks, Hamdani was reported as missing and, seemingly due to his religion and ethnicity, his disappearance was placed under investigation. Family members were questioned by the FBI and New York Police Department for any possible involvement in the attacks. Hamdani’s mother, Talat, fought for the truth and to honor her son, whose remains, along with his medical bag, were found five months after the attacks in the wreckage of the World Trade Center North Tower.
“In the film, we encounter new perspectives on the 9/11 tragedy — so there’s an intriguing historical dimension. This is also a compelling story about a family that has endured so much and a mother whose perseverance and optimism are indescribable.”
Hamdani eventually was hailed a hero and, in 2014, the street outside his childhood home in the Bayside community of New York City was renamed “Salman Hamdani Way” to honor his sacrifices as a first responder to the World Trade Center attacks.
“This is a remarkable story, and I’m honored that we were able to play a role in sharing it with others,” said Khalil, who produced and directed the 38-minute film along with Nick Eyde, executive producer and manager of GEYDE Development, and Kraig Westfall, film producer, editor, and co-owner of Good Fruit Video.
Film Screening at WKAR
A screening of American Jedi: The Salman Hamdani Story will take place on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the WKAR Studios in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building on MSU’s campus. The film screening is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended by completing this RSVP form.
The film screening, presented by WKAR in partnership with the Department of Religious Studies, Muslim Studies Program, and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, will feature the extended director’s cut followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A session with Khalil, Eyde, and Westfall. Rola Nashef, Filmmaker and Digital Storytelling Professor of Practice in MSU’s School of Journalism, will serve as panel moderator.
Parking for the event is available for free after 6 p.m. at the Trowbridge Parking Ramp, 1149 Red Cedar Road, East Lansing. Event check-in will take place in the South Lobby of the Communication Arts and Sciences Building, which is adjacent to the Trowbridge Parking Ramp.
Other Ways to Watch
The film also will be screened on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium, 525 S. State Street, Ann Arbor. This screening, hosted by the Global Islamic Studies Center at the University of Michigan, will be followed by a talkback session with Khalil and Eyde. For more information, see the event web page.
Also, an abbreviated version of the film will air on the following PBS affiliates:
Sunday, Sept. 10
- WCMU at noon
- WNMU at 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 11
- WTVS World Channel (Detroit Public Television) at 1 p.m.
- WKAR at 8 p.m.
- WGVU at 11 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 13
- WTVS World Channel (Detroit Public Television) at 11 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15
- WTVS World Channel (Detroit Public Television) at 4:30 p.m.\
Written by Kim Popiolek