Unseen photos from the 9/11 cleanup: Lost CD reveals haunting images

A casual clearance sale purchase has yielded a cache of remarkable photos never publicly seen before, all depicting the clean up operation in New York following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

The images, taken from overhead and on the ground, show workers and heavy machinery moving rubble from the base of the World Trade Center in the days and weeks following 9/11.

They were captured on a Canon Powershot G1 by an as-yet unidentified member of the clearing crew who has since died.

The 2,400 photos remained on a CD in storage until someone purchased the disc with a stash of CDs at an estate sale and gave them to archivist Jason Scott earlier in June.

Scott said on Twitter that while the CDRs containing the photos were in poor condition, having rotted in the 18 years since 9/11, he was able to retrieve the photos and later upload them to Flickr.

Nearly 3,000 people died when four hijacked commercial airplanes full of crew and passengers flew into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania. Within an hour and 40 minutes, the 110-storey towers had collapsed.

The horror of the attack is visible in photos showing heaps of twisted and charred metal in place of the buildings where so many people died.

But the photos also capture small human moments, showing conversations between workers at the site, some of whom can be seen smiling at times.

According to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, 45,000 people are suffering from at least one 9/11-related chronic health condition, many of whom were first responders, survivors and members of the clearing crews at ground zero.

Here is a selection of the photos showing some of those people. The rest are available on Flickr.