Rare ground zero video shows subterranean search

NEW YORK - CBS News Justice correspondent Bob Orr was given special access to video captured by FEMA in the days following the attacks of 9/11/01.

FEMA had exclusive access, and spent eight months documenting the scene in lower Manhattan. The video begins with the desperate search for survivors.

Firefighters dug through the debris and cadaver dogs were ferried on zip lines in and out of narrow pockets inside the wreckage.

On the surface, searchers faced a seemingly insurmountable task - picking through one and a half million tons of twisted steel and broken concrete. But, an equally daunting challenge loomed below. The six stories beneath the collapsed Twin Towers were pitch black.

(Left, VIDEO: 9/11 rescue crews look for survivors)

Guided by periodic shafts of light, a rescue team from Miami carefully tracked subway lines looking for people who might have taken refuge when the Twin Towers were hit.

A group of fellow searchers from Washington State is seen inching towards another possible shelter.

"Office Depot over here," on searcher said. "This opens into a large space - we may want to take a look."

While some stairwells remained accessible, many pathways and escalators were cut off by immoveable rubble. Often rescue crews had to travel along pipes and then squeeze through narrow conduits.

The subterranean search turned up no miracles, and no survivors. But, there were so many strange, even haunting discoveries.

Newspapers were found untouched on their stands trumpeting the big stories from the morning of September 11th, 2001. An arrest in a bank heist topped the New York Daily News. An election story headlined the New York Post.

WATCH: 9/11 Fla. rescue team scours NYC subways

Searchers also found dusty merchandise stacked on store shelves - right where it was when the clerks ran to safety. At least one subway train was found crushed in the cave-in. Parked cars were tossed around their underground garage.

The clocks on one wall were were frozen in time - just before 10 a.m. - the precise moment the North Tower collapsed.

Back above ground, the FEMA cameras recorded other memorable scenes. A rescue dog fitted with a camera on its collar is sceen scouring the ground. A crushed fire truck is identified when someone wrote "E-34" for Engine 34 in its dust. American flags were planted amid the wreckage as symbols of hope in our national time of despair. Small pieces from the American Airlines Flight 11 - the first jetliner to hit the Twin Towers are seen on the ground.

Perhaps the most defining image was the panorama of destruction - and the last skeletal remains of the World Trade Center being brought down.

A decade later, the pictures resonate and take us back to that horrible day which is still so unimagineable.

Watch below: 9/11 aftermath: Eerie subway tour

  • Bob Orr

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