A Scene Both Chaotic and Eerie

'There was no traffic on the street at all. All you could hear were sirens and helicopters.'

September 12, 2011
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A training session brought Kim Ploof, chief operations officer for Covera Card Solutions, to Municipal Credit Union on Sept. 11, 2001.

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.

Kim Ploof
Kim Ploof

“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.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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