The session she was supposed to lead at the credit union, located across the street from the World Trade Center, was scheduled to start at 8:30 that morning (the view from Municipal's office is pictured above).
“Like most New Yorkers, they didn’t show up on time,” Ploof recalls. “We were waiting in a windowless office when, all of a sudden, the building started shaking. We had no idea what was occurring because we couldn’t see outside.”
It wasn’t long before Ploof and her five co-workers heard people screaming and crying in the hallway. They learned something had hit one of the Towers.
“We asked to use the phone to let people know we were safe and tell them what was occurring,” she says. “We went into another area to use the phones and we looked out the window in sheer disbelief at what was happening. As we were looking at the Towers, in came the second plane and we watched in horror as it hit the second tower.”
In shock, Ploof screamed that they had to leave the building immediately. Her co-workers also were in shock: one hid under a desk and wouldn’t move, another insisted on gathering up the training materials, and another cried in the hallway.
They left the then-empty credit union office and made their way down 35 floors. Outside, the scene was both chaotic and eerie.
“People were crying and screaming,” Ploof says. “It was eerie as well because there was no traffic on the street at all, and not a cab in sight. All you could hear were sirens and helicopters. There was stuff everywhere on the ground and we didn’t know where we were going because we got there by train. We had to find a way out so we kept walking and walking away from the towers.”
At that point, one of Ploof’s co-workers split from the group, deciding to find a taxi and take it back to her home in Long Island. She couldn’t find a cab, got turned around, and ended up back at the Twin Towers when they collapsed—covering her with debris.
Amazingly, a stranger pulled her to safety and took care of her, leading her to the Hudson River where tugboats were taking people to New Jersey. This good Samaritan, who spoke no English, brought her to his family’s home where she stayed for days to recuperate.
“The last time I talked to her, she was still in contact with her good Samaritan,” Ploof says. “It was her angel who saved her life.”
Ploof and her co-workers continued walking, eventually reaching a small family store. They used the store’s phone to call their families and the office. It was around that time when the first Tower collapsed.
“Every time we made a phone call something else would happen,” she says. “Our families thought we were still down there at that point.”
The group eventually made it to a hotel where some friends of a friend of a friend were attending a conference. “They gave up their rooms to share with other employees so we could share a room and have a place to stay for the night.”
Ploof says her experience on Sept. 11 has given her a greater appreciation for life. “Like the song says, live every day like it’s your last. I know it has changed my outlook on life—making sure I appreciate what I have and live every day like it’s my last so there are no regrets down the road.”
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.