10 September, 2002
Picking Up The Pieces
For the last 12 months CCF has been involved in rebuilding the spirit of New York youth affected by the September 11
attacks on the World Trade Center.
“Shortly after the terrorist attacks CCF realised that children in the US would have some of the same fears as children
in war torn countries where we work,” says Adam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of CCF NZ.
“Tension among different ethnic groups was running high, just as in any other country where violence shatters the status
CCF implemented its tolerance building programme in New York to reinstall trust, friendship and understanding between
the different ethnic groups represented in the September 11 attacks.
This programme is part of CCF’s award winning approach to working with traumatised children and youth.
The trauma programmes have been implemented in war torn countries like Angola, Sierra Leone and Kosovo, but this was the
first time that CCF had ever been called upon to work in a developed country.
One of the tolerance building activities was a summer programme called Project Unity, attended by student leaders from
high schools in Queens. An extremely diverse spectrum of religious backgrounds were represented; Jews, Muslims,
Christians, and Hindus. The group also included diverse ethnic backgrounds: Bengali, Indian, Pakistani, African
Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Russian Jewish immigrants, among others.
The idea behind Project Unity was to get students to work together over the summer to complete a major project of their
choosing; a play about September 11 and its aftermath. They also created a mural at New York’s Five Points Building, an
international graffiti landmark.
“Through working together, the students learnt tolerance for different and diverse cultures, something they’ll now share
with other students in their home schools,” says Mr Laidlaw.
Journals that the students kept throughout the programme tell so much about the impact of September 11 on New York
youth. The students progressed from mistrust, fear, even dislike of each other, to camaraderie and the ability to accept
The journal entries from students participating in CCF Project Unity speak volumes:
"The short term effects were that my Mom who's a teacher at Stuyvesant High School, was in shock for days, she didn't
come home 'til late that night, and I was in shock too. I missed school for some time and maybe several weeks later my
father lost his job… A few days later my friend's brother, who was a paramedic, was reported dead trying to save other
lives…I knew inside the pain was killing him. I tried to be there for him…
I have a broader view of life now. I know more how prejudice and hate unite people… I will try to do my best to learn
more about other people's cultures and backgrounds so that I would be able to maybe even prevent a hate crime from
happening. That's why I'm in Project Unity."
"After what happened, my heart was in my throat because I knew that there was going to be a sudden influx of hate crimes
toward people thought to be of Middle-Eastern and South Asian descent. I was worried for my brother and father since
they look more Indian than I do.
At my church, a mentor of mine was harassed – someone set his car on fire… I was speechless. Some weeks after, his
daughter, a very good friend of mine, moved to Georgia, hoping to be free of other random acts of hate.
Long-term wise, I just fear for the people who are being brutally bombed. How are they going to survive if all they have
ever known is going to be bombed to nothingness?"
"My life has been different since 9/11 in many ways. I have taken some verbal abuse in school and on the streets about
being an Arab terrorist, while I am Christian… My life is now filled with a question of, 'Will there be more attacks?'
and also, 'Will I be alive tomorrow?'
…For a week or two after 9/11, I would be so scared of any planes in the air, especially in my neighborhood, since I
live near Laguardia airport.
Today…I feel that we cannot let the attacks affect people of the Muslim religion who had nothing to do with them. People
must move on with life and we cannot take anything or anyone for granted. The times to come are very crucial to any
peace in the world."
Danny C. 7/23/02
"…This to me is the meaning of unity. A bunch of different kids from totally different backgrounds, all with different
beliefs and goals, somehow managing to come together and understand each other in order to complete a job and ending up
friends because of it. It's just truly amazing."
There is still a lot of work to be done in New York. Please donate now to help fund CCF’s work in picking up the pieces
after September 11. Call 0800 808 822 or visit www.ccf.org.nz today.