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Requiem For Ground Zero

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“Requiem for Ground Zero” is a poem written to pay homage to the unknown victims, such as the window cleaner Roko Camaj, who died in the nine eleven tragedy.

At that period of time I had been trying to get dates for my play Messiah: Scenes from a Crucifixion (Fringe award winner in 2000), and naturally had been turned down by every subsidised theatre in London. So we toured Britain and we opened Messiah in Oxford at the Oxford Playhouse the night of the twin tower disaster.

The play was timely you might say and the inflamed passions and pain that most people felt that day were to some extent assuaged by being able to identify with another tragedy. I found myself penning this poem as if there were a need in me to give something to it; to mourn and at the same time to pay homage, to grieve and to also express rage, anger, fury, compassion and ultimately, understanding. I take no sides but merely try to express the atmosphere of the time... take the temperature so to speak…

Try to imagine what it was like being on a plane hijacked by terrorists and using your mobile phone to make your last calls to your wife… The horror of the situation where normally we feel so safe in those big American jets, so succoured and fussed over. Also America is so familiar to us, and New York particularly is the world’s favourite city, since we feel we know it from movies, books, jazz, food, architecture, etc… We have been inundated from childhood with the weird and wonderful spirit of New York and it has achieved mythic proportions in our heads. It’s a gleaming jewel at night as the cameras pan across the skyline and we’re in for another blast of escapism: Someone to Watch Over Me… On the Town… The Godfather… Detective Story… On the Waterfront…. even King Kong… let alone A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Dog Day Afternoon, and of course, nearly everything by Woody Allen. So New York City has filtered its way into our subconscious in such a way that when it got hit, the shockwave that went through Britain was quite unbelievable. This modest poem is merely a result of some of that wave. © Steven Berkoff 2002

“Requiem” is one hundred verses of four lines each, written in iambic pentameter.

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