“I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
From the 104th Floor
A Poem by Leda Rodis
When the plane hit the building rocked first to the right
then 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
that’s what happened. Just an accident. And accidents happen everyday.
Under the blown-out exit sign
a crowd is screaming, crying,
pounding on the door.
You have to believe that I tried. I’m not the one to give up.
Back at my desk, I rescue the rolling pen,
stare at the blank screen, and hold my picture
I look out at the blue morning.
I expect to see God there.
But what I really see is
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.
What 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.
About the author of this poem ~ from the Barnes and Noble website:
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 using black-and-white animation as a way of honoring both the writer’s vision and the courage of the people who perished. ~www.barnesandnoble.com