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9-11-01 September 11 Memorial Tattoos

Updated on September 11, 2007
9/11 tattoos memorialize the infamous morning when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center
9/11 tattoos memorialize the infamous morning when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center

One unremarkable day at my former place of employment, I was helping a member pick out furniture for his living room when I noticed a small tattoo on his inner wrist. This gentleman was a very clean cut, suit-and-tie kind of guy, classic style, with nary another tattoo or piercing in sight. The tattoo was a thick, black outline of the number 88--of course I had to inquire. "I never thought I'd get a tattoo," he told me. "I was always pretty against them." When I wondered what changed his mind, he told me that he got the tattoo in honor of his best friend, a woman who had died in the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. She had worked on the 88th floor of Tower One, and was in it when it collapsed to the ground. Last night I was watching a documentary on TLC that explained in detail the events of 9/11 told from the point of view of the air traffic controllers who were at the forefront of the tragedy as they were the first to notice that the planes had been hijacked and were flying off course, then descending sharply at breakneck speeds as they approached the New York City skyline. One story was particularly moving, told by a married couple who lost their son, their daughter-in-law and their infant granddaughter. Their son telephoned them just before the plane his family was traveling on crashed into one of the towers. You watch these shows and you listen to these stories and you think to yourself, My have they survived? There are people who lost everything that day, their lives, their partners, their families. A blink of the eye and it was all gone, needlessly. Since then, I have seen more and more survivors choosing to honor the loved ones they lost by getting tattoos. Tattoos have often been used to memorialize friends or family members who have passed. Some people seek out a portrait artist and have a recreation of a favorite photo tattooed on their skin; others are satisfied with a banner that reads like an epitaph, detailing the person's name, date of birth and death. Some choose a meaningful quote while others prefer simply a first name or initials.

On September 11, 343 firefighters, 23 police department fficers, and 37 Port Authority cops were killed trying to rescue victims who were still stranded in both the North and the South Towers. They were still inside when the towers collapsed down around them. Because of this, many tattoos feature police shields, ladder company numbers, paramedic badges, and other FDNY and NYPD logos. Some 9/11 tattoos are morbid: a skeletal hand gripping a shredded flag, the towers burning, twin planes blazing through the sky. But each one has a meaning and a purpose for the individual who chose it. Other common images that reappear in memorial tattoos are the New York City skyline both as it looked before terrorists took out the World Trade Center and after, along with pictures of the bald eagle or the Statue of Liberty, American symbols of freedom.

In the wake of 9/11, patriotic tattoos have surged, paying homage to those that we've lost. Often accompanied by the American flag, 9/11 tattoos are tributes to the mothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, firemen, police officers and rescue workers who gave their lives that day, honoring their remembrance and, as many of the tattoos suggest, reminding those of us who are still living, "Never forget."


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FDNY & NYPD Tattoos

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    • profile image

      Dave Brose 6 years ago

      9/11 Ink by Black Stallion Tattoo Boston

    • profile image

      Jimmy 6 years ago

      October 27, 2011 ~

      I am honored to find my tattoo used as the one at the top of your article. It took many weeks to design, and I am very pleased with the result. I am a retired Paramedic. As your article accurately points out, I lost 343 of my brothers on September 11, 2001. I wear and show my tattoo with sorrow and with pride. I am glad you felt it worthy of selection for the top of your article. Never forget those who ran toward while others were running away.

    • profile image

      mike 6 years ago

      we will never forget 9/11

    • profile image

      A1C GSKI 7 years ago

      @antifa please shut up

    • Kyle246 profile image

      Kyle246 7 years ago from United States


    • profile image

      katherine pennington 7 years ago

      My name is Katherine Renay pennington and my birthday is 9-11-97 and i plan it get a remembrance tattoo on the inside of my wrist. anyone have any ideas???

    • profile image

      AMERICAN PRIDE! 8 years ago

      please tell me where you see 88

    • profile image

      antifa 8 years ago

      Um, I hope that person realizes that "88" is also code for "Heil Hitler"..."88" tattoos generally signify that you're a neo-Nazi.

    • profile image

      amanda  9 years ago

      these tatoos are so beautiful and i really think the people who have these are very nice and respectful people and that hopfully one day i will also have one as nice as them in memerie of nne elivin!!!!!!!! THANKS TO ALL FOR BEIN GREAT PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA!!!!

    • profile image

      devon messer 9 years ago

      it drives me wild i mean


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