Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Aerial Photos of the World Trade Center Attack

Back in 2009, ABC News filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the release of these singular aerial photographs of the World Trade Center. They were taken on September 11, 2001 by Detective Greg Semendinger of the New York City Police Aviation Unit who had been sent by helicopter with a pilot to scout out possible rooftop rescue scenarios. Having identified no one on the roof of the North Tower, Semendinger took these photographs of the unfolding disaster. These photos had been collected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for its investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. They were made public in February of 2010. These aerial views provide a vivid overview of the attack and its aftermath. They provide some of the clearest images available of the physical scope of the calamity.

The North Tower, the first tower hit, is burning.  The South Tower is on the far right. Until I saw these photos, I believed a rooftop rescue by helicopter might have been feasible.  Access to the roof was locked. For orientation, Brooklyn is in the background.

The North Tower burning.  The South Tower has collapsed at the far right.  The buildings of the World Financial Center are in the foreground.  The East River and Brooklyn are in the background.

The North Tower continues to burn.

The North Tower continues to burn after the collapse of the South Tower.  The view is from the west, over the Hudson River.

The North Tower burning.  The Hudson River is in the foreground.  The East River and the Brooklyn Bridge are in the mid-background.  Note how narrow Lower Manhattan is.

Collapse of the North Tower. Jersey City with Liberty State Park are in the background.

Collapse of the North Tower.  That's Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

After the North Tower collapses, the dust and debris cloud spreads.

The dust cloud engulfs apartment buildings.

This sequence shows the dust cloud spreading from Ground Zero, upper left.

Looking south on West Street as the dust cloud moves north

The Tribeca Bridge on West Street at Stuyvesant High School

Dust engulfs lower Manhattan.

The Woolworth building, center

The dust begins to settle.  Ground Zero is at the upper right.

Everything on West Street is covered by dust and debris.  I believe those are mostly emergency vehicles in the street.

The dust-covered ground looking south on West Street from Chambers Street

Liberty Island with the Statue of Liberty.  Left to right you can make out the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the World Financial Center, and Battery Park City.

Battery Park City including the Museum of Jewish Heritage.  Battery Park City is built on landfill obtained during the excavation of the World Trade Center. The photo shows a variety of boats racing to the scene hoping to effect a rescue.

The Staten Island Ferry leaves the Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan

The view of lower Manhattan from the north. The wind is blowing towards Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bridge is on the left.

As the helicopter departs, we see the view from the East River looking south towards the Brooklyn Bridge. Ground Zero is on the West Side closer to the Hudson River. The wind is blowing to the east towards Brooklyn. 

Photos by Det. Greg Semendinger/NYC Police Aviation Unit



  1. No one could have thought the towers would collapse, except maybe civil engineers who were familiar with the towers’ structure and scaffolding.

    Thanks for these aerial photos. Never seen pictures from these angles before.

    1. The collapse of the first tower, at least, was unexpected by almost all on the scene.

  2. incredible photos. Thank you for sharing, I never saw it from this perspective before. RIP everyone lost on that day and those to whom we've lost since then.

  3. Thanks so much. I have been trying since 1980 to counter Libertarian Party saracen-importing and no-borders anarchists. This reminder will help.

  4. Thank you for posting these. I WILL FIGHT for AMERICA though her scars and sins be many she is still "ONE NATION UNDER GOD INDIVISIBLE WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL."

    1. Yeah, you are still working on that last part.
      Good luck, I would dearly love to see the USA be all the great things it aspires to be, and lead by example in turning back the tides of intolerance and authoritarianism in the world.
      Freedom! Justice! And MEAN it!