Aerial Photos Taken Days After 9/11 Reveal Aftermath of the Terror Attacks

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, are branded into the minds of people across the world, who watched the tragedy unfold in real-time on their TV screens.

Powerful images of the Twin Towers erupting into flames, people falling from the skyscrapers, New Yorkers covered in debris and the buildings crumbling are among the most poignant images of the attack.

Now, 20 years later, aerial images shot just days after the event have revealed the extent of the devastation, which killed around 3,000 people.

Aerial shot of New York after 9/11.
Aerial shot of New York after 9/11, taken on September 12 2001. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Aerial shot of New York after 9/11.
Aerial shot of New York after 9/11, above The World Trade Center, taken on September 13 2001. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Aerial shot of New York after 9/11.
Aerial shot of New York after 9/11, above The World Trade Center, taken on September 15 2001. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

The 9/11 attacks saw four commercial flights hijacked by terrorists, with two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, flown into the twin towers at the World Trade Center, in New York. A third, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon, Virginia, while a fourth, United Flight 93, saw passengers overpower the attackers and bring the craft down in a field in Pennsylvania.

Maxar Technologies has shared the images to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the September attacks. They are the first unclassified satellite images of the locations released to the public.

Aerial shot of The Pentagon after 9/11.
Aerial shot of The Pentagon after 9/11, showing the affected portion on the left, taken on September 15 2001. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Aerial shot of crash site after 9/11.
An aerial shot of crash site in Pennsylvania after 9/11, taken on September 13 2001. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

Their IKONOS satellite was the "only high-resolution commercial imagery system in orbit" at the time, and as the news unfolded Maxar's Collection Planning Team redirected the satellite to capture the crash sites, they said.

Images taken on September 13 and 15 above the Big Apple show smoke rising from the felled towers, surrounded by debris. Snaps taken of the Pentagon show a charred portion, from where the plane crashed into the western section. The satellite images taken above the Shanksville crash site appear to show scattered debris in the field where the plane was brought down.

Aerial shot of 9/11 memorial.
An aerial shot of 9/11 memorial at the site of the former twin towers in New York, taken on September 11 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
 Aerial shot of Pennsylvania site in 2021.
Aerial shot of the crash site in Pennsylvania, showing the memorial, taken exactly 20 years after 9/11 on September 11 2021. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.
Aerial shot of the Pentagon in 2021.
An aerial shot of The Pentagon, taken exactly 20 years after 9/11 on September 11 2001. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

Maxar also took photos this year, to compare how the sites have changed over the past two decades. New images capture the memorials in New York, Shanksville and Arlington, while American flags can be seen at the top of towering office buildings in Rosslyn, Virginia.

To mark the somber anniversary, on Saturday, President Joe Biden visited all three sites, while former President George W. Bush, in power during the attacks, also gave an address.

In a statement announcing the declassification review of the FBI investigation into 9/11, on September 3, Biden said: "We must never forget the enduring pain of the families and loved ones of the 2,977 innocent people who were killed during the worst terrorist attack on America in our history. For them, it was not only a national and international tragedy. It was a personal devastation."