17 years after the 9/11 attacks, a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits brought against the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has led to the release of almost all of the footage that was consulted when writing the 9/11 Commission report. Much of the footage was never aired on television until years later, or seen by the public at all until the age of YouTube.
(Editor's Note: Watch all the videos on the WTCFOIAVideos YouTube channel)
The first piece of footage, above, comes from CBS photojournalist Mark LaGanga, who carried a full-size television camera into the heart of the crisis after the second plane strike. La Ganga ventures from Battery Park, where he witnesses the aftermath of the collapse of the South Tower, to the lobby of WTC-7, where he sees people running for their lives, police officers, firefighters, and suit-wearing office workers rushing around, and eventually back outside and down Vesey Street, where he has a direct view of the collapse of the North Tower.
The most heartbreaking moment comes at the end of this video, after he makes his way through the dust cloud to the river, when police are helping evacuate students from Stuyvesant High School and others out of lower Manhattan onto the ferries to New Jersey, and they have to ask people to donate water bottles to help police clean the dust out of their eyes so they could go back into ground zero. That day, a light coating of dust reached as far as the Empire State Building and Jersey City, each about two miles away in different directions.
In the second video, above, you get a view of the North Tower on fire around 8:59 a.m. before you hear the roar of the engine of the incoming second aircraft, which is captured striking the tower a few seconds before 9:03 a.m. You can also hear two people discussing whether the building is going to collapse in what appears to be Canadian French before they notice people jumping from the highest floors.
Next, you can consult an aerial view of the entire event from beginning to end from a helicopter belonging to NYC's WPIX-TV. Around 18 minutes into the first part, you can get one of the best available views of the impact hole on the North face of the South Tower before the fire and smoke becomes too intense to see. The collapse of the South Tower is visible around 1:22:30 of the first part, at what was 10:28 a.m. The damage to WTC-7 from the collapse of Tower 1 is also clearly visible.
Reporter: Melinda Murphy
Pilot: Ray Rivera
View of WTC from: West, Southwest
Camera Location: Over New Jersey
"If you are watching this from the world trade center, do not get on an elevator in the middle of a fire," WPIX-NY reporter Melinda Murphy warns. "You will have to walk down. The world trade centers are among the tallest buildings in the world... Fortunately, the good thing we can say is the firefighters in Manhattan... this is what they have trained for... We are showing you live pictures of the world trade center, and we can see they are on fire -- both towers."
Next, we have footage from videographer Ben Riesman, who captured the view from the opposite side, walking from near the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall Park, where he had a direct view South down Broadway towards ground zero.
Videographer: Ben Riesman
View on WTC from: Northeast
Camera Locations: Park Row, Brooklyn Bridge
From Riesman's original video description posted on Vimeo:
"On September 11th, 2001, I was living in Brooklyn and found myself close to the World Trade Towers as they burned and fell to the ground. * Foolishly close, I caught the collapse of the 1st Tower on tape, and was in a crowd of people that ran from and was caught in a huge cloud of dust. In this strange dust storm, I talked to a distressed man who said he was "the building manager", and caught a ride from a Peruvian good Samaritan back to Brooklyn with 2 Japanese girls who had been in the tower when it was hit. Camera rolling the entire time. 10 years later, I took out the tape and watched it again, and am sharing it with you.
* Q: How did it happen that I was there?
I woke up that morning in Brooklyn to the news that the World Trade Towers were on fire. An aspiring videographer, I grabbed my camera and caught what was probably the last train going into lower Manhattan before everything was shut down. When I got above ground I made my way towards the towers, the first of which buckled and collapsed within minutes of my arrival.
I was totally brash and foolish to be so close, to be sure - but in defense of my younger self, I left my house towards what I thought was a fire, and did not know about the planes until later - a fact might have clued me into the severity of the moment."
Finally, we have footage from Anthony Mazza and Michael Barbagallo, of WPIX-TV. Mazza (presumably) can be heard calling his wife saying, "A f*cking plane or something hit the world trade center, something happened here, this is not good. Mike and I are here, we're looking right at it, it is un f*cking believable... Mike, we have to stay away from the towers, we're going to get killed -- you see the pieces falling, Mike? Mike, get away from the towers."
A few moments later, Anthony and Mike see the second plane strike the other tower and immediately begin to run for shelter as pieces of building, window, and airplane rain down on the street.