Ramirez said the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which is also collecting thousands of images from the tragedy, has obtained baggies, juice bottles and jars full of the pulverized residue scooped up by New Yorkers in the days after the attacks. "They did it not really knowing what it meant yet, but sensing there was something almost nuclear about it that they felt they should save," she said.
The museum's collection, expected to open to the public in 2012, also includes artifacts from ground zero, personal effects and memorabilia, expressions of tribute and remembrance, and oral histories given by survivors of the trauma.
Ramirez says some of the most poignent items include selected samples of the white paper that blew across the city after the office buildings were struck and captured in photos from that day.
"Many New Yorkers literally pulled it from their fire escapes and from the window jambs of their apartments and have kept it over all these years…We've been able to trace back and realize -- this is a business card, this was a document, this was a desk memo pad that came from the desk of someone unfortunately who perished that day," said Ramirez.
The extensive collection of newly released photos includes work by both amateur and professional photographers who submitted their images to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) during their investigation of the World Trade Center towers' structural failures. The photos were released following a Freedom of Information Act request filed by ABC News last year.
Ramirez says that while the collection retains tremendous emotionality for people who view it, the photos offer a meaningful reminder of just how far we've come.
"Although 9/11 was an event that certainly set in motion a cascade of political consequences and economic consequences, it is ultimately a great revealer of the human spirit. It was a moment when the essence of who you were -- what you were able to do under extraordinary circumstances, how you could help, how you could comfort -- was revealed."
ABC News' Jason Ryan, Pierre Thomas, Jack Cloherty, Lisa Jones and The Associated Press contributed to this report.