Images remembering the New York City skyline before the attacks, odes to the firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives to save others, and the names of lost loved ones are common themes found in 9/11 memorial tattoos. Permanently commemorating this tragic event through a tattoo can help people who lived through the ordeal to cope with the trauma they experienced, and for those who lost a loved one, such tattoos ensure we continue to appreciate the sacrifices of first responders and carry on the legacy of the innocent victims.
Before 9/11, the Twin Towers stood tall and proud amongst the New York City skyline. The attacks on 9/11 altered the lives of all American citizens. Though the towers are now gone, their place amongst the skyline is permanently enshrined in many tribute tattoos, capturing the magnitude of the tragedy.
Other tattoos highlight the strength of New York City in the face of such a tragedy. While many choose to highlight the bravery of New York police and firefighters who risked their lives to save people trapped in the chaos, some ink themselves with subtle tributes to New York City. The Statue of Liberty is featured in many tribute tattoos. Despite the tragedy, these tattoos represent hope and freedom, as they highlight the bravery and selflessness of first responders, or remind us of New York’s reputation as a mecca of diversity. These tattoos serve not only as an homage, but as a testimony to the fact that New York’s cosmopolitan identity cannot be robbed, even in the face of a national tragedy.
Speaking of New York pride, one particular photograph immortalizes the strength, hope, and resilience of New Yorkers: a group of firefighters hoisting an American flag amongst the turmoil. This photo remains one of the most recognizable and powerful images from that day and it demonstrates that even amidst a great tragedy, we can commemorate sacrifice while also remaining optimistic about our unity and people’s capacity for good. The photograph is so iconic and powerful that is has been memorialized in news coverage, history textbooks, and even tattoos.
Many of these tattoos are large, often colorful portraits. Memorializing the events of 9/11 with sizable tattoos stands as a miniscule sacrifice, one that not only acts as catharsis for the individual sporting the tattoo but also serves to remind others of the tragedy itself in hopes of preventing further harm. This is one of the most powerful aspects of getting a large-scale commemorative piece: enduring pain to commemorate pain. Because many of these memorial tattoos are large and colorful, they also prove to be attention-grabbing, ensuring that onlookers will remember the events and carry that weight with them. The permanence of a tragedy has led to something more beautiful, and that is the permanence of commemorative body art.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.