WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2010 -- Twelve images newly released by the government of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists' attacks on the World Trade Center provide a fresh look at the tragedy and its impact on New York City.
The photographs obtained by ABC News show, among other things, tugboats and commuter ferries that raced to the shoreline near the burning twin towers. Aerial images depict the extent of dust and debris plume engulfing lower Manhattan. Others offer new perspectives on the blanket of white ash that covered the ground.
The extensive collection of photos and some videos collected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows the horrific aftermath of two commercial jetliners hitting the towers, leaving 2,750 dead.
While many of the pictures are similar to images the public has seen before, some are from different vantage points or angles.
They include hundreds of shots taken from New York Police Department helicopters, showing the vast clouds of dust and debris when the towers fell.
"I almost didn't realize what I was seeing that day," ex-NYPD Aviation Unit Detective Greg Semendinger told AP of the photos he contributed to the collection. "Looking at it now, it's amazing I took those pictures. The images are... stunning."
The vast image collection was released following a Freedom of Information Act request filed by ABC News last year.
In August 2009, NIST printed a notice in the Federal Register asking photographers for permission to make public images collected during the agency's investigation into the towers' collapse.
After seeing the notice, ABC News sought to obtain the volumes of pictures and video that NIST had collected and studied during its inquiry into the World Trade Center towers' structural failures.
The Institute fulfilled the request nearly six months later, providing pictures on nine CDs. There were 2,779 pictures on the discs.
It's a "phenomenal body of work," Jan Ramirez, chief curator of the planned Sept. 11 museum, told AP. The photos are "absolutely core to understanding the visual phenomena of what was happening."
ABC News has asked for permission to publish more of the images, the rights to which are still retained by the organizations or private individuals who originally took them.
ABC News' Pierre Thomas, Jack Cloherty, Lisa Jones and the Associated Press contributed to this report.