Talat Hamdani and Armeen Hamdani

hamdaniduoOn September 11, 2001, Salman Hamdani was a 23-year-old emergency medical technician, NYPD cadet, and aspiring medical student working in Midtown Manhattan. He did not return home that day.

His family did not know that Salman had made his way downtown to the site of the World Trade Center hoping to help others, and had been killed in the collapse of the North Tower.

Like thousands of other families, the Hamdanis spent the weeks following the attacks searching for their son, but unlike others, they were forced to deal with the burden of suspicion that was thrust on them because of their background and faith. lab2Salman was had nothing to do with the events of 9/11, but being a Muslim with a Pakistani background, he was immediately targeted by police and media as a possible accomplice to the attacks.

At his April 2002 funeral held at a New York City mosque, Salman was given a hero’s burial and officials hamdani1across the city were in attendance to remember his sacrifice. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised Salman saying: “We have an example of how one can make the world better. Salman stood up when most people would have gone in the other direction.”

Today there are scholarships in his name at his alma mater, Queens College, and at Rockefeller University, and the street he lived on in Bayside, Queens, was renamed in his honor.

His mother, Talat Hamdani, came to StoryCorps with her niece Armeen Hamdani (pictured together above), to remember the days after September 11, 2001, when Salman went missing.

Photos of Salman courtesy of Talat Hamdani.
Illustration by Matt Huynh for StoryCorps.

Vaughn Allex and Denise Allex

This weekend marks 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Each year since, StoryCorps has commemorated the day by featuring stories from the parents, wives, husbands, coworkers, and friends of those who died on 9/11. This year we hear from Vaughn Allex, a man whose life was affected in another way.

Vaughn was working at the American Airlines ticket counter at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on the morning of September 11 checking in passengers on Flight 77. Allex1As he was wrapping up, two men who were running late for the flight came to his counter.

Before the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport security was more lax, and Vaughn did exactly what he was supposed to do — he checked both men’s IDs, asked them a few standard security questions, and then flagged their bags for extra scrutiny.

Vaughn then checked the two men in and they boarded the flight to Los Angeles.

Those two men were among the five hijackers onboard who crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people including themselves.

Vaughn, who retired from the airline industry in 2008 and now works for the Department of Homeland Security, came to StoryCorps with his wife, Denise, to discuss how he has felt since learning the next day that he checked in two of the 9/11 hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77.

Originally aired September 9, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Illustration by Matt Huynh for StoryCorps.

Isaac Feliciano

felicianoextraIsaac Feliciano has been working at Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood cemetery for 21 years. He has done many jobs there and is currently a field foreman, supervising landscape and maintenance workers on the grounds.

On September 11, 2001 he dropped his wife off at the subway so she could get to her job at Marsh & McLennan in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

He then headed to work at Green-Wood.

Rosa Maria Feliciano, pictured at left with her daughters, Amanda and Alexis, was 30 years old when she was killed on September 11, 2001. Today, Isaac is a single father raising their two daughters.

Originally aired September 11, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Photo courtesy of the Feliciano family.

Sekou Siby

A few years after immigrating from the Ivory Coast, Sekou Siby began working in the kitchen at Windows on the World—a restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

Sekou, 49, lost more than 70 colleagues on September 11, 2001, many of them immigrants as well.

He was originally scheduled to work on the morning of the attacks but switched shifts at the request of another employee—fellow kitchen worker Moises Rivas.

Sekou came to StoryCorps’ booth in Lower Manhattan to remember Moises as well as the many other coworkers he lost on that day.

Originally aired September 5, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Constance Labetti

Connie Labetti was working for Aon Corporation in 2001. Her office was on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower—the second to be hit on September 11, 2001.

As the attacks began, she fled the South Tower and made it out alive—with help from her boss, Ron Fazio. The only trace of Ron recovered at Ground Zero was a mangled credit card.

Originally aired September 6, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Stacy Thedans

Cheryle D. Sincock was an administrative assistant for the U.S. Army. The 53-year-old mother of four was killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

At StoryCorps, her daughter Stacy Thedans remembered their last phone conversation, on the morning of the attacks.

Recorded May 25, 2006.

Graham Haggett and Shelli Wright

haggett_extra_111The last picture 11-year-old Graham Haggett’s grandmother Sandra Lee Wright ever saw was of him.

When Sandra, 57, arrived at her job on the morning of September 11, 2001, waiting for her in her email was a photo (at left) of 10-week-old Graham sent by her daughter, Shelli Wright (pictured above). Her response, “So cute! I’m going to steal that baby.”

Sandra, the facilities manager for Aon Corporation, haggett_extra_32had an office located in the World Trade Center’s South Tower. She, along with 175 of her colleagues, were killed on the morning of the attacks.

Graham, (pictured above and at left with Lammy, a gift from Sandra), came to StoryCorps with his mother Shelli, 41, to remember the grandmother he never got to know.

Originally aired September 7, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photos courtesy of Shelli Wright.

Nancy Cardona and Umberto Joseph DeJesus

For nearly twenty years, Umberto Joseph DeJesus has worked as an EMT and physician assistant in emergency rooms around New York City. September 11, 2001 was his day off.

At StoryCorps, Umberto talks to his wife, Nancy Cardona, about going to Ground Zero as a volunteer.

Recorded September 10, 2011.

Charles Maikish

John DiGiovanni, a dental salesman, was parking his car at the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, when terrorists detonated a truck bomb in the garage. He was one of six people killed in the blast.

At StoryCorps, Former World Trade Center Director and CEO Charles Maikish (pictured above with Jan Ramirz, the curator of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum), remembers visiting John’s mother shortly after her son’s death.

Recorded April 10, 2008.

John Yates

John Yates was working at the Pentagon as a civilian security manager on September 11, 2001.

That morning, he and five colleagues gathered around a television to watch the news of the attack on the World Trade Center. Afterwards, he returned to his desk to call his wife and assure her he was fine. Soon after rejoining his colleagues, American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

The impact blew John through the air. He crawled through the wreckage and eventually found his way to the Pentagon’s center courtyard, where his clothing was cut off and a doctor began treatment.

Two days later John awoke in the hospital suffering burns on almost 40 percent of his body. The five colleagues he’d been with that morning were all killed in the explosion.

John came to StoryCorps to talk about his memories of that morning.

Originally aired September 11, 2011, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Each week, the StoryCorps podcast shares these unscripted conversations, revealing the wisdom, courage, and poetry in the words of people you might not notice walking down the street.