Time Magazine – 9/11 Special Issue

Time Magazine’s black border on it’s 9/11 special issue cover was subtle but it delivered a dramatic statement. The magazine, along with Coca Cola, McDonalds and Disney is one of the great American institutions. An appearance on its hallowed covers, whether it be an individual, an organisation, a movement, an event or a trend, was and still is, a statement of having arrived, of having made a mark in history.

Although the fonts on the cover changed frequently as the decades progressed, the red border of the magazine which was introduced in 1927, was an industry standard, like the Financial Times being printed on pink paper. (Time tried a bright orange table of contents pre-1927.) The red border has only been dropped occassionally and the 9/11 cover was the first break with the tradition. (Time was partly emulating its late sister LIFE magazine, which changed its red masthead to black after the assassination of John F. Kennedy).

The magazine was put out just 36 hours after the horrific events and it was the only issue in the magazine’s history without any advertisement. It sold 3.4 million copies, the most ever. On the cover was a photo taken by Lyle Owerko. On the back cover was the photo of the Statue of Liberty engulfed in smoke and ash.

Owerko remembered being jetlagged and unable to sleep in his Tribeca apartment when he heard the loud impact of the American Airlines jet hitting the World Trade Center’s north tower. He set out with a 35mm and a medium format Fuji 645zi film cameras to cover the attacks. He was already by the WTC when the second plane hit, and shot three frames with his Fuji.

I waited until it hit and when it hit I had no idea, but I thought something would occur. And when it hit, again it made this incredible beyond movie theatre sound. And then nothing happened for a second until this fireball of heat and debris erupted out of the backside of the building and that’s when I caught the cover shot.

And then the debris started raining down on us. I put my hands over my head as airplane parts and building parts started scattering around the police officers, the bystanders, and me. There were screams and an eruption of people’s voices in shock.

He developed his film at a nearby lab, whose owner told him: “You have the cover of TIME magazine.” By early afternoon, his pictures were on the desk of Time’s director of photography, MaryAnne Golon. She remembered: “The minute I saw it, I walked to Jim Kelly’s office with it and said ‘here’s our cover’.”

 

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