Even for an entity used to doing heavy lifting when it comes to supporting the U.S. economy, 2008 was a historic year for the Federal Reserve.
The central bank was left to grapple with the worst downturn since the Great Depression and was challenged to come up with innovative tools to get the economy back on its feet.
Transcripts from that year's meeting, released in a massive document dump Friday, show the depths of Fed deliberations as a crisis on Wall Street threatened to tear the global economy apart.
As policy makers rushed in to save Bear Stearns and AIG but not Lehman Brothers, then-Chairman Ben Bernanke considered the ramifications.
"There have been criticisms from the right and from the left," Bernanke said at the Oct. 28-29 meeting. "From the right, the initial criticism was that we have no business interfering with the market process. We should let them fail. The market will take care of it."
(Read more: Some Fed members raised idea of rate hikes)
"I never took this seriously," he added. "I just don't believe that you can allow systemically critical institutions to fail in the middle of financial crises and expect it to be not a problem."
The September emergency meeting, which came the day after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on the 15th, showed officials grappling with the full scope of the problem and trying to anticipate the landscape ahead. They often appeared to be groping in the dark in trying to devise solutions to the chaos.
"Personally, I see the prospects for economic growth in the foreseeable future as quite weak, notwithstanding the second quarter's strength," then-Chairman Ben Bernanke said. "I think what we saw in the recent labor reports removes any real doubt that we are in a period that will be designated as an official (National Bureau of Economic Research) recession."
Current Chair Janet Yellen saw things much the same way as she ruminated over the problems in housing and employment.