in memory

From the 104th Floor

by Leda Rodis (age 14 in 2001)

When the plane hit the building
rocked first
to the right
to the left,
and outside all the skyscrapers
of New York
seemed to tremble.

The alarms screamed louder
than we did, and I knew
it was time to get away. It's funny
what you notice:
a pen rolling across the floor
my screen saver flicker and go off
a picture of you
and me
at Coney Island.

So much to leave behind. And yet so little.

Running down the hall I remembered
my mother
taking me to the top
of the Empire
State Building when I was just
a little girl,
telling me that a plane
had crashed there a long
time ago. So I thought that maybe
what happened. Just
an accident. And accidents
happen everyday.

Under the blown-out exit sign
a crowd
is screaming,
on the door.
I know:


You have to believe that I tried. I'm not the one
to give up.
Back at my desk, I rescue
the rolling pen,
at the blank screen, and
my picture
of you.
I look out
at the blue morning.
I expect
to see God there.
But what I really see is
another plane.
And I know what it means.
But I don't know why...

I always thought that life was full of choices.
It always has been.
What to wear
Where to eat
Who to love
(and you know who I chose).

Now my choices have been taken away from me.
The men in the planes have narrowed my choices
Death by fire, or death by fall.

I see the smoke
filling the room
It's hard to breathe

I look towards the open window.
would falling feel like?

I remember the roller coaster at Coney Island.

The wind tugging at my hair
How good it felt to scream.
The feeling in my stomach.

And how all the way down

I was with you.

many of you have asked who Leda Rodis is ...

ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, 14-year-old Leda Rodis was in her high school library in Vermont, researching a freshman English assignment, when the announcement came over the loudspeaker: airplanes had been flown into both towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Like people everywhere that day, Leda watched the unreal images on television as the mammoth structures burned, then collapsed, killing thousands. The image that stuck with Leda most was that of two very brave people jumping from the towers, holding hands. Rather than die in the fire the terrorists had created, they chose to jump. And they chose to do it together.

More than any other event in history, images from 9/11 are forever seared onto humanity’s collective consciousness. Every person has tried in some way to come to terms with that day. Leda decided to write a poem. “From the 104th Floor” flowed through her as if a voice had come up out of the rubble. Though it memorializes the events and feelings of that day, “From the 104th Floor” is in the end a love poem. An inspiration. Love is bigger than terror.

Leda’s mother shared the poem with a friend in Brooklyn, Serguei Bassine, a young filmmaker. The poem’s images dug so deeply into him that in the weeks following 9/11 he would stand up and recite it on his subway commute from Brooklyn into Manhattan. Each time he read he saw horror turn to grief and then to hope in the eyes of his rapt listeners. For a long time he wrestled with how to bring the poem’s images to film without violating the integrity of the poem, or the enormity of the experiences of the people who were lost. In the end he made a short film usingblack-and-white animation as a way of honoring both the writer’s vision and the courage of the people who perished.


  1. I was at home on September 11 2001 ... I was with my sister in Florida attending to issues related to the estates of both our parents .. I think it was harder to be away and know Husband and everyone else I, we, cared about were in NYC dealing with something so horrific.

    We drove home because there were no planes flying ... and when we got to the top of the NJ Turnpike we could see the smoke rising from the tip of Manhattan where the Towers once stood.

    Its a memory I dont think will ever fade.

    This poem touched me in many many ways .. I hope it touches you as well.


  2. A fitting tribute in word and image, Daryl. Nicely done.

  3. "Louis" remembers exactly where he was when he heard the news - he was in a Safeway store in San Leandro, CA. As soon as he heard, he said: "Bin Laden."

    Thank you for posting this, Daryl.

  4. I am COVERED in chills. Beautiful and haunting.

  5. An achingly beautiful and so very sad poem.

    Wonderful tribute, Daryl. No, memories of this day will NEVER fade for me either.

    Thank you for this photo and poem.

  6. It's still a vivid a painful memory for me, without personally knowing anyone involved. Tragic.

  7. This impressive poem touches me to the core of my being. I can see it over and over again that afternoon here in Holland. I felt the enormous feeling of helplessness and emptiness. What an act of hatred! How can young people be so thoroughly stupid to believe that they do this for God, who created men and women alike to love him and to love each other and do away with hatred!

    Congratulations with the award Louis has given to you!

  8. Thank you for the grim but beautifully done reminder.

  9. Oh. It tears my heart all over again. Thanks, Daryl.

  10. Tears.
    Beautiful tribute.

    All of New York and those who were there on that day have been in my thoughts constantly today. I have lived, I have lunched, but always in the back of my mind today, there was you.

    I remember where I was too. As Katney said, "grim [reminder] but beautifully done."

    God bless you all.

  11. Oh Daryl.

    I've been waiting for this from you - wondering what your post would be - and now I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face - and remembering.

    All those lives - bless them.

  12. Daryl
    Exactly what I expected from you.
    Thank you.

    Bear((( )))

  13. Wow. That poem is amazing, heartbreaking, everything rolled up into one.

    It is a memory that will never fade. I still remember it as if it just happened. And because we do, the people live on.

    It's a beautiful tribute. I am hunkering down for a possible hurricane hit, but it's not overshadowing what this day means to NY and the US.

  14. Hi, Aims pointed me over here. From a UK perspective, regular TV scheduling stopped and then this nightmare began to unfold. It was too horrific to be real it felt more like the latest Hollywood trailer. Each new atrocity occured at regular intervals choriographed designed to keep the world riveted and appalled. I only found out afterwards that my cousin had been due to be in the Twin Towers but cancelled. The world became a smaller place since then and we shared the grief.

  15. Great tribute, but very sad and painful.

    Thanks for sharing this,
    Troy and Martha

  16. Beautiful and heartbreaking. That feeling of helplessness was felt worldwide. Living near Toronto's airport, I remember how eerily silent the skies were the few days following, and how threatening the sounds of the first few planes were after they resumed flight.

  17. Wow. Hard day today- thank you for sharing that beautiful poem.

  18. Oh Daryl, what a wonderful and perfect post for today. I love the poem. It says just enough. We all have our memories from that day, but that poem retrieves the feelings to the here and now.

    Thank you.

  19. Daryl, that is the most beautiful tribute to 9/11 I have ever read.

    I had a friend who once worked in the Windows on the World Restaurant, and she knew people who were trapped up there. She was so heartsick, all she could say was, "oh, sh*t!"

  20. I will never forget -- I had fallen asleep the night before with my little bedroom TV on. I woke up just as the second plane hit and was glued to the television all day. Beautiful poem but so very tragic.

    I have a little tribute on my blog today also.

  21. That was a terrifying day. thank you for your way of commemorating that horrible day.

  22. Oh my God, I am shivering and weeping as I read this. Profound - and written by a 14-year-old! I remember feeling ill at the sight of those jumping to their deaths, knowing it would be death, but preferring it over burning. words...just tears...

  23. 14 year old girl. An amazing tribute from her. What an old soul.

    Thank you for such a thought-provoking and emotional tribute. We should never forget.

    I went and gave my son a hug because I am so thankful for everyday I have with him.

  24. Thank you for the backstory on the poem - it's beautifully haunting

  25. My husband was there that day but was delayed entering the building. I didn't hear from him til 1 o'clock in the afternoon but he was alive, dust covered and had to walk home from Queens. We remember this day, Daryl, we can never forget.

  26. she was 14! what an amazing young woman.

    thank you for bringing it to all of us

    hugs Daryl

  27. super poem, I have never read that one before................just the right words.

    Gill in Canada

  28. Thank you Daryl. I did google her but struggled to come up with all this which is what I wanted, or to know if the person I had found was the real one.

    Thanks for doing the leg work. Appreciated.

  29. Thank you for posting this. I had never heard this poem.

  30. that is just a fantastic poem. (i changed to fantastic from awesome because i know you loathe that word.)

    really love it.

  31. Daryl, this is a wonderful poem. Thank you for posting it.

  32. Yes. in memory. But what was most the disgusting thing I saw on tv tonight was the 9/11 faker. Shocking!

  33. I've never heard this before. It's very touching.

  34. I never heard this story either. Now I want to see the film as well. & I just thought, that young girl is 21 now. I wonder where she is. this is a perfect post for today. so glad I found your site. Thanks.

  35. Mojo (from Why? What Have You Heard?) sent me over here for NYC "things to do" advice and I'm just mesmerized by this incredible poem. Wow. I noticed you know Aileni from Loose Ends too!

  36. Very touching.

    I was up late watching an amazing documentary about two brothers that were filming the FDNY fire fighters for other reasons when they captured everything on tape. It was very overwhelming.

    Then I couldn't sleep and wanted to learn even more about it. SO I stayed up till 6 am watching youtubes of more footage and reading stories about the lost heroes.

    I couldn't ever imagine going through something like that.

    It was footage of the falling people that had me in tears the most. How awful! Falling to your death to avoid buring to death.

    May they all rest in peace.

    Thanks for sharing Daryl xx

  37. Beautiful. This is the best 9/11 tribute post I've seen...

  38. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I had never read it before. So powerful.

  39. Beautiful poem.....

    dropping by from Black Boxes

  40. Thank you for sharing this, even though it made me cry.

  41. 'Love is bigger than terror.' Hallelujah to that.

  42. A powerful poem, Daryl. I remember seeing photographs of people jumping. What guts this writer had to place herself in the minds of those people. She reaches into the depths of human imagination, including the depths of fear and horror, and emerges in the light.

    And speaking of that light, Daryl, yours is a beautiful photographic memory of the Towers. It is so important to honor that memory and all the lives who were lost that day.

    I acknowledge a great city rich with culture and teeming with good human beings. Like you.

  43. You know, I'm not much of a one for poetry, but that is a very striking and beautiful piece of work.

  44. Sorry I was away so couldn't come earlier.
    But this poem touched me in many ways.

    I was watching tv when it had happened on that day and the second plane hit the bldg in front of my eyes. It was horrible.

    I lost none known to me but then all were my own in some way.

    Kudos to the writer. I'll share this with my people here.

    Thanks Daryl once again.

  45. Wow Daryl, that was amazing. I can't believe that was written by a child. I hope she is still writing. Those are powerful words.

  46. so moving and stirring that i had to add it to my blog to share as well. i dont think any of us will ever forget the memories. my mom always talks about remembering where she was when JFK was shot and my grandfather talks about being in the Navy and going to clean up the wreckage of Pearl Harbor... this is my JFK and Pearl Harbor... this is all of ours. I enjoy your blog immensely!

  47. I found you through the Black Box. What an amazing tribute. Very moving. A tragic day that none of us will ever, ever forget.

  48. Such an incredible poem, it seems to sum up so much of that dreadful day.


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