9/11 Tattoos: Memory, Mourning and Patriotism in 9/11 Tattoo Design

Monday 09th of February 2009 04:40:38 PM [Add To This Article]

After the tragedy on September 11, 2001 that left thousands of Americans dead and the entire country in mourning, there was an incredible influx of support for members of the military, the police departments and the fire departments throughout the country, focusing in particular on the divisions in New York City. As people looked for a way to deal with their grief and commemorate the people who died in the plane crashes, in the Pentagon and as a result of the collapse of the Twin Towers, they sought a method of memorial that would be public and permanent. For many, including those whose professions or personal tastes had never previously run toward body art, the memorial tattoo or the 9/11 tattoo was the perfect and highly appropriate solution.

As a result of 9/11, people went into mourning not only for the lives lost and the families disrupted and destroyed, but also for what is now viewed as a simpler time in a American history when the general public did not view the global community as a potential threat. As a result of this lost innocence, many 9/11 tattoos depict the Twin Towers as whole again, or show the planes flying into the buildings themselves. Twin Tower tattoos, FDNY tattoos and NYPD tattoos became very popular, even when the wearer was not actually a member of the Fire Department of New York or the New York Police Department. These tattoos were a way to show appreciation and admiration for the bravery of the rescue teams who entered the falling and fallen buildings and gratitude for the sacrifices that were made.

9/11 tattoos are uniquely personal -- possibly even more so than a traditional tattoo, which is by nature about as personal as you can get -- because they are such a public expression of a person's inner mourning, patriotism or even anger. 9/11 tattoos are easily recognized, and can bring extremely disparate individuals together in camaraderie because of the shared national loss. Weeping eagle tattoos, angry eagle tattoos and fireman tattoos are popular 9/11 tattoo motifs, with the fireman often wearing angel wings or the eagle protectively encircling an image of the World Trade Center towers with American flag-striped wings.

Other 9/11 tattoos are recognizable by the phrasing or the dates that they include, but are far more personal to the wearer. For example, many who escaped the building tattooed their floor level on the inside of their wrists to commemorate co-workers who did not make it out alive. Others have portrait tattoos of lost loved ones inked on their skin, accompanied by birth and death dates and the words "Never Forget." Another popular 9/11 tattoo design method is to incorporate vintage military images like bluebird tattoos, bulldog tattoos, swallow tattoos or even the Lady Luck tattoo or Men's Ruin tattoo into a personal expression of commemoration. For example, a bluebird tattoo surrounded by artistic flames with the words "Never Forget" on a scroll beneath it is an attractive way to make your feelings public while keeping your tattoo a bit more personal and decorative than some of the larger 9/11 tattoos like the Twin Tower mural tattoos and the angry eagle tattoos.

Some 9/11 tattoos are even more highly personalized, and may represent a person's personal statement to the perpetrators of the tragedy. Popular but also humorous or at least lighter images include a tattoo of an eagle filing its talons, and quotes from the Toby Keith song The Angry American, which lead to a rash of boot tattoos referencing the lyrics "We'll put a boot in your a**, It's the American Way," which were directed toward terrorists throughout the world.

Another interesting aspect of 9/11 tattoos is their high visibility. Regardless of the bearer's professional status or career goals, these tattoos are often worn on the inside of the wrist, where they would be visible even when wearing a man's dress shirt, or on areas of the body that are commonly visible, such as the shoulders, calves or back and nape of the neck. It appears that part of getting a 9/11 tattoo for many people involves making an important public statement about the importance of the event and the vitality of our nation's ability to remember and repay. If you are considering getting a 9/11 tattoo, be certain that you factor in your own emotional response to it. These tattoos have brought an incredible number of Americans together in unique and positive ways, but they do also serve as a constant reminder of one of the greatest tragedies in American history. As with any tattoo, be prepared to explain it and tell the story so that your statement can live on and develop a life of its own.

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