Aerial Photographs of Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero in the Days after 9/11
During nineteen flight missions, EarthData personnel took black-and-white digital photographs of lower Manhattan. These images enabled first responders to fight fires, identify dangerously unstable areas, study the radically changed contours of the World Trade Center site, pinpoint the location of stairwells and elevator shafts within damaged buildings, and coordinate removal of debris. They also helped first responders from other parts of the state and the nation become familiar with lower Manhattan's streetscape and transportation infrastructure. All of these images were taken at mid-day and at an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet.
These photographs were taken during EarthData's first flight mission on Saturday, September 15, 2001, when parts of the World Trade Center site were still on fire. The plane was flying northwest along the western edge of Manhattan.
These photographs were taken on Sunday, October 21, 2001, after most of the fires had been put out and debris removal had begun. They were taken as the plane flew southeast along the western edge of Manhattan.
After each mission, EarthData personnel created “orthophotographic” versions of the images that were free of the visual distortions associated with changes in the landscape being photographed, uneven lighting conditions, aircraft movement, and known limitations of their camera and that could be aligned precisely with a map of lower Manhattan. They then imported the orthophotographic images into a Geographic Information System – software that displays and analyzes information relating to physical locations – that contained maps and other information about the World Trade Center site and its environs.