Observing cells in their original niche is a key link between the information gleaned from planar culture and in vivo physiology and pathology. A new approach combining the transparency of the cornea, Hoffman modulation optics, and digital imaging allowed movements of individual corneal cells to be viewed directly in situ. 3-Dimensional time-lapse movies imaging unstained cells within the stratified corneal epithelium during wound healing were made. Tracking cell movements dynamically provided a definitive answer to the long-standing question: does a stratified epithelium heal by "sliding" of cell sheets as a coherent unit or do individual cells "leap frog" each other at the wound margin? A wound in the corneal epithelium healed primarily by sliding of the whole epithelium, with approximately 95% of cells moving with similar speed and trajectories and with little change in their relative position. Only 5% of cells changed layers, with equal proportions moving up or down. Epithelial healing in situ occurred in three phases: a latency, migration, and reconstruction phase. This model provides a unique system to study the behaviors of individual cells in their original niche. It shows that cells slide into a wound as a unified unit to heal a stratified epithelium.