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Citizenship - How 911 changed the world

Winning a trip to New York proves to be an eye-opening experience

Winning a trip to New York proves to be an eye-opening experience

The attacks on New York City in September 2001 - now known simply as 911 - changed the world forever. I was just five years old, and have never known anything different.

But when I entered the 911 London Project's National Schools Competition, and wrote my essay about the tragedy and what it meant to me, it made me think more deeply about the effects that rippled around the world, all stemming from that day.

I won the competition by writing a series of letters to an imaginary friend who lived in New York and had perished in the disaster. In my essay I touched on the racism that has affected so many people since then.

I thought about religious intolerance in the world, and how it changed in the wake of the attacks. Suddenly, peaceful religious people were being discriminated against and attacked in the streets, just because they bore a resemblance to certain stereotypes.

The diversity of the hatred was bizarre. I am saddened to think that innocent people can be treated in this way, as we should all accept each other's faith and beliefs.

At my school in Devon, everyone knows each other and there are few ethnic minorities. London, to me, seemed a mix of every possible culture. But when I travelled to New York with the 911 London Project it felt like a conglomeration of everything in the world.

We met some amazing people, including Rudy Giuliani, who, as the mayor of New York at the time of the attacks, became a symbol of the city's fighting spirit. We also met Lee Ielpi, president of the September 11th Families' Association.

But what I noticed most was the way the people all accepted each other. On the streets, vegetarian cafes sat next to meat grills. Mosques and churches sat side by side. The religious and cultural diversity was enormous. It made me feel that sometimes, to be singular, you have to live in a city where you can be accepted by everyone, where everyone is an individual.

One of the other students who travelled with me to New York was Ayse Akgol, a Muslim living in Lancashire, who was a runner-up in the film category of the competition. She said that when she told people she was a Muslim some of them would turn away and change their attitude towards her.

When it comes to religion, I do not know what to believe in. But I do know that Ayse has never tried to push her religion at me, nor has she ever offended me in any way. So why do people act differently when they find out that she is a Muslim?

My experience with the 911 London Project has given me a greater insight into the differences in society, and also the need to educate young people about why you should not discriminate just because someone is different from you. As I write, New York has been devastated again, and it will be people of all faiths and races who help to put it back together.

Georgina Hodgson is 16 and attends Chulmleigh Community College in Devon. She is hoping to study science at college and wants to become a writer. For more information on the 911 London Project, email or visit For educational resources, go to

What else?

Investigate the effect the 911 attacks had on the world with the 911 Education Programme's resources, created in partnership with the University of London's Institute of Education.


Explore identity and diversity with DanielWillcocks' case study about the proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero.


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