September 7, 2006

A 9/11 tattoo.

A reader asks:
If you were going to get a tattoo about 9/11, what would it say and where would you put it? Or -- do you think it's not your thing, or is it somehow not appropriate?
Comments? Don't get sidetracked into the question of whether a person should get tattoos at all. Assume a tattooer. (And don't picture me, of course.) Is there some reason to eschew the 9/11 tattoo? If not, what should it be?


misterfed said...

I would design and use such a tattoo in compliance with the prevailing custom.

That is to say, I would get "OMG!!!9/11!!!TEH DANGER!!1!! tattooed on my palm. Then, whenever I did something that someone challenged -- fabricating authority in motion papers, billing clients for more then 24 hours in a day, trying to deep-fry a turkey indoors, screwing the babysitter on the good couch -- I would simply hold up my palm to the challenger.

"Talk to 9/11," I could say.

Joseph said...

A 9/11 tattoo is not necessarily offensive but I'm having trouble imagining a tattoo that would not be tacky and kind of creepy, unless maybe it were connected to a personal loss.

Peter Hoh said...

I saw such a tattoo recently, on a person's right shoulder blade. I'm having trouble remembering where I saw it, though it was probably at the Minnesota State Fair. The twin towers were shown in a pre-destruction pose.

Hey said...

Seriously: "Remember" optionally with an image of the towers.

You'll notice that the towers continue to be a very, very popular image for the highschool/college crowd. They sell very well at Ikea and poster sales on campus.

Rather than get a tattoo, do something productive. Contribute to VFW/Legion, volunteer at a VA hospital, donate to Soldiers Angels, Adopt a Sniper, etc, help groups such as Internet Haganah, or go all the way and take up the fight by joining the military (including reserves or ROTC), CIA, NSA, or FBI.

We can all do our part. Especially important is to contribute to, volunteer for, and vote for candidates that care about our security and will ensure that all necessary means are used and available to our defence agencies and block the neo-churchian impulses of Dean, Pelosi, Kos et al.

Personally, I donate to soldiers charities, help out with internet intelligence operations, and am trying to get a waiver to join the fight.

Anonymous said...

hey said: "You'll notice that the towers continue to be a very, very popular image for the highschool/college crowd. They sell very well at Ikea and poster sales on campus."

I wasn't aware of that. Pre- or post-destruction?

Nels said...

It's not simple to "assume a tattooer" (which, by the way, I would think is actually the artist who inks the tattoo, not the wearer). As I don't have any tattoos, my assumption is that I would only cross that barrier for something deeply important and personal, such as having lost a family member or close friend on 9/11. Somebody who has tattoos, or is more open to the idea of them, might have much lower standards - possibly in inverse proportion to blood alcohol level - and would have no issue with getting such a tattoo despite lacking a personal connection to 9/11.

Beth said...

The Towers were beautiful parts of the skyline. I love seeing images of that intact skyline; I was upset when Law and Order, for instance, changed their opening because the Towers were in the sequence.

I understand wanting a tattoo to commemorate things that matter. There's been a big boom in Katrina tattoos; my favorites are simply fleur de lis images.

There are quite a gew 9/11 tattoos out there, especially images of fire and police symbols and stations. I found some firefighters' images at a site called

Jonathan said...

I don't think there is anything sacred about 9/11 that would prevent it from being a tattoo. Personally, I would go with pre-attack images of the towers. They were just beautiful structures. I would make it small, maybe on a bicep or shoulder. Not being big on tattoos in general, I would shy away from a scale version stretching from waist to neck on my back.

I'm thinking there will be a difference in tone left to right on the political spectrum. The right comments will be more respectful, more patriotic, whereas the left will gravitate towards a "mission accomplished" or GW tattoo located somewhere very far down on their posterior (so they can sit on it) or other unflattering body part and be decidedly negative.

Beth said...

Jonathan, that's a nice little worldview you've dreamed up there. Yeah, we on the left just wanna shit all over 9/11. Hey, I'll put the towers on my ass, maybe with some little figures jumping out of the windows. That'll be funny!

It's really a shame that the right, at least as evidenced by Jonathan, feels the need to pee on stuff so prove they own it.

al said...

Pre attack towers would be a good basis for a tatoo. Add the sun with 'Never Forget' - a good artist could make that work.

My son bought a painting from a street artist in Times Square in July. It's the skyline featuring the Twin Towers, the moon, the river - very cool. It would make an excellent tatoo - assumiming one could handle the needle for that long.

Unknown said...

I was going to suggest exactly what "al" has suggested above. I actually think it would be great to see: and I am not a tattoo person.

Vicky said...

As a firefighter's daughter, I would probably get a small filled black maltese cross. My personal location preference would be for the inside of my right wrist where I would see it often.

Uncle Jimbo said...

I can easily imagine the two towers burning with the words "Never Forget'. Which is a fairly common sight around the net.

It honors the dead, remembers the iconic nature of the structures, and reminds us that we were attacked.


Uncle J

Revenant said...

I'd opt for "Never forgive, never forget". I've no idea if that would look good as a tattoo, though, since I seldom see tattoos I think look good.

Yeah, we on the left just wanna shit all over 9/11.

Well, it wasn't conservatives who flocked to buy "Fahrenheit 9/11" tickets...

LoafingOaf said...

I didn't like the Twin Towers before 9/11 but now that they're gone I wish NY had decided to rebuild them.

I'd get a tattoo that incorporates the towers, the date, and the firefighters and police somehow. (I thought the beams of light memorial at the site was very moving, but that again seems hard to incorporate into a tattoo....)

I wonder if anyone's gotten a tattoo of that Danish cartoon of Muhamad with the bomb on his head!

hdhouse said...

media has been sanitizing the twin towers out of old movies that start with a sweep across the city skyline. it is very painful for a lot of us to see the towers in a peaceful setting (let alone ablaze).

i would hope that taste would prevail..eschew!

to be honest, why tat anyway? but that isn't the question.

unless there is a personal rememberance it might be slightly outside the realm of good taste (there is a limit to good taste but unfortunately, no limit to bad taste).

Aspasia M. said...

whereas the left will gravitate towards a "mission accomplished" or GW tattoo located somewhere very far down on their posterior

1. You are crazy.

Nobody on the left wants his name or his political rhetoric anywhere near his/her body.

Ewww....(and what in the Sam Hill do those phrases that have to do with a tattoo about 9/11 anyway?)

bearbee said...

9/11 memorial tattoos

MadisonMan said...

geoduck2, he might be crazy, but he's also omniscient, as it appears he knows the tattoo desires of all on the left.

My loss on 9/11 is miniscule compared to others. I think a tattoo on my body would cheapen their loss, as others have noted.

Susan said...

...tattooer" (which, by the way, I would think is actually the artist who inks the tattoo, not the wearer).

That would make the wearer a tattooee (great word!)

hdhouse said...

susan....a tatooeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwe

seriously, had the great good fortune of waking up next to someone who, unknowntome was tatoo'd..(it was dark...what can i say)... it was a butterfly and pretty artsy and pretty pretty but i ran to the old steve mcqueen/dustin hoffman movie...and my mind wondered and in my advancing age....ohmy.


Beth said...

Susan, is that a resident of Tatooine?

bearbee said...

more tattoos

Sanjay said...

Now, we've gone over this, but to bring it all full circle, I'd point out that if you had a short squat neck you could make it look longer and taller with two towers...

chuck b. said...

Off-topic, but this reminds me sl. sickening conversation I had w/ someone at school awhile ago:

She has lots of tattoos. I normally have no interest in people's tattoos, but I'd had a few glasses of wine and felt gregarious. (Wine at school? Yes.)

So, in the spirit of small talk and seeming like a person who has some small amount of interest in the world around me, I asked her about her tattoos. Specificially, I asked if the tattoos had meaning because, on casual inspection, they looked like an odd assortment which made me think she chose each one for a specific reason.

She started by pointing to one on her hand of a stylized eye shedding a tear drop. She said, "I got this one when the United States went into Afghanistan because I dreamed Buddha was crying because we had unleashed a cycle of violence on the world."

Oy. I finished my wine and figured I was right not to be interested in other people when I'm sober.

Daryl Herbert said...

A tattoo is necessarily about its bearer.

That person is the canvas; it cannot be separated from them*. You can't tell people to look at a tattoo and expect them to ignore the skin behind it. When you are getting a tattoo, you are making a statement about yourself and any claim to the contrary is baloney.

Which is not to say it is always wrong to get a tattoo about something like 9/11; as joseph hovsep said, it might be okay if "it were connected to a personal loss." If you want to make a personal statement regarding 9/11 with a tattoo, go ahead, but do so knowing that it will be interpreted as a statement about yourself, and no broader. If you want to make a statement about 9/11's meaning in the grander scheme of things, get a blog or write a letter to the editor.

You can see the same phenomenon in some of the more egregious staged hate crimes: people carved symbols into themselves (such as swastikas or a word like "faggot"). They are obviously disturbed people who were crying out for attention. This was also done by a nutty left-wing professor, except she put the symbols on her car. Same concept, though.

* (unless destroyed by lasers)

Revenant said...

* (unless destroyed by lasers)

That should be a standard disclaimer on all predictions, in my opinion. For example:

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise will continue to dominate headlines* in the coming weeks. The controversy over their marriage, Cruise's bizarre behavior, and the parentage of "their" new baby ensures that their presence on the cover of any magazine* will be a sure boost to sales. Thus will the paparazzi* continue to lower American journalism standards.

* (unless destroyed by lasers)

Beth said...

chuck, in her time of cognitive dissonance, she overlooked the fact that there are no more Buddhas left to cry in Afghanistan.

chuck b. said...

Elizabeth! In my moment of insobriety I overlooked that snappy retort. :)

Al Maviva said...

"I got this one when the United States went into Afghanistan because I dreamed Buddha was crying

I might have said, "Hey, that's really appropriate. Because they met the Buddha's on the road to Banyan, and just like Buddha said to do, they killed 'em."

As for tats, I'm not into them but if I was, I think I'd have to go for a naked chick on my shoulder with a simple 9/11 underneath her gorgeous legs. Because that's the kind of thing that would really make the people who hate us angry as hell.

Beth said...

chuck, I almost never get to deliver an actual snappy retort when it's called for. Al's buddha on the road was even better!

My dad had a tattoo of a busty. leggy, 40s gal in a sexy pose, wearing an American flag bikini. Two of my brothers were stationed at the same base in Georgia, about a year apart, before shipping out overseas, and independently of each other got the same flag tattoo at the same parlor, with the text identifying their division. They didn't discover this until more than a year later. I agree with Daryl, that a tattoo is about its bearer. The images I described tell me stories about my father and brothers. I can absolutely understand why anyone affected personally by 9/11 would ink that experience into their skin.

Rick said...

Ann, thanks for posting my question (I'm the guy who intends to get a tattoo referencing 9-11). And thanks to the commenters for some, um, interesting suggestions! I only have one tattoo now (in honor of the birth of my child) and intend to get only one more--and of course you only get a tattoo if you REALLY believe in the message. But I really do, and I know a lot of you are, like me, still upset and angry these five years later--good! That's exactly how we should feel.
Along those lines, though, what is this nonsense about a tattoo being more appropriate if (I) "suffered a 'personal' loss?" Do we not all feel as though we suffered a personal loss on that day? I don't mean to compare my feelings of loss to those whose loved ones died on 9-11; that would be absurd. But I sure felt as though we ALL lost a lot. And it was--and is--a personal loss, isn't it?
The first idea I had, and the one I think I'm gonna go with (but thank you for your suggestions anyway) is "Tolerance....or Death!" with a small "Remember 9-11" underneath. I'm not sure about the artwork yet (I don't think I want the twin towers--that's a lot of needle time!) but that'll be the text. I realize some of you are probably shaking your heads, so I'll explain further: the message is, the radical Islamists (and all other religious nuts, for that matter) who would force their god on the rest of us better learn to tolerate us instead, because if they don't, we're going to have to kill a lot more of them. I would like it if we didn't have to kill them, but, as we've all seen, they're highly resistant to any and all subtler forms of persuasion.
Tattoos really are great conversation-starters; I'm often asked by complete strangers to explain the creative tattoo of my son's birthdate, wound around his initial, on my right shoulder. So, I figure, people will ask me about this new tattoo, and I'll tell them what it means, and I'll listen to how they feel about that day, and we will spend a moment remembering 9-11, which is exactly the point.
I agree with the poster who said that a tattoo might not be as useful a gesture as volunteering or donating, so I'm going to take that comment to heart and do that too (in addition to the tattoo, not instead of it).
Thanks again, and thanks to Ann, who will be my absolute-certain NEXT choice for a tattoo, if I decide to go for three. Smart women are SO sexy! : )

amba said...

I got a T-shirt made after 9/11 -- I felt impelled to do it -- and my tattoo would be the same.

It said "I (heart) NY," but the heart was broken.

amba said...

Another possibility would be the iconic image of that ribbed fragment that jutted up out the pit at GZ.

Kirk Parker said...


"It's not simple to 'assume a tattooer'"...

Does it help if you assume a spherical tattooer?

amba said...

Personally, I would go with pre-attack images of the towers. They were just beautiful structures.

Not really. We forget now how boxy and bland their design seemed, how unimaginative. Philippe Petit spiritualized them, though. Someone did a wonderful children's picture book about his walk between the towers that a friend gave me. It ended something like, "The towers are gone now, but . . . " the implication was sort of that the towers have gone where Philippe's walk went and have been reunited with it.

We didn't like them, but we came to love them, and they became a necessary part of the grandeur of the skyline of the city. It still looks maimed to me. Humbled -- "brought low" -- and doubly castrated.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

I've always disliked when people try to attach themselves to things that they are not connected to directly, and especially when the urge is due to subconscious or overt trend following.

That said, a nice tatoo would be "9" inbetween images of the two towers. Underneath, the words "God is love".

Dave... said...

I know several firefighters who have gotten 9/11 commemorative tattoos, from the Iwo-Jima like flag raising scene with firefighters to the firefighters maltese cross with 9/11/2001 below the cross.

For firefighters especially (if they are not in any other way connected) 9/11 was a personal loss. Every firefighter I've talked to feels as though they lost family that day.

So, the FDNY Maltese Cross, with a simple 9/11/2001 below the cross would be the only thing I would consider if that were the type of tattoo that I chose.

I do not agree with Nels at all considering the "lower standards." Sure there are a lot of dumb tattoos out there, and most of the people who have them regret the decision to have them placed.

I believe that a tattoo should be very well thought out before getting one applied. Barring laser surgery, burning (scarring), or cutting a tattoo off, they are permanent, so any decision to have a tattoo applied should weigh around something of significant importance to you.

In this Daryl Herbert is right. Tattoos should always be about the bearer. Ultimately, anything else will become something that you don't enjoy.

Whether others agree with the choice for a tattoo or not, the symbolism should be yours and yours alone, not the mass-marketed crap that haunts the walls of tattoo parlors.

For example, I'd probably have to beat senseless the first person I saw with a tribal 9/11 tattoo.

So passe.

goesh said...

- a sporty, bright 9/11 tatoo would give any roll of fat some real punch. The ultimate placement though would be just below "Mom" on the right bicep.

SWBarns said...

Ask ten firefighters (between the ages of 20-40) and you will see two or three 911 tatoos. Upper arm and calf seem to be the locations. Eagles, 343, "all gave some, some gave all" are all themes.

As for how to commemorate 9-11, show up at your local firehouse with T-Bones and cook for your local fireman.

NSC said...

"I've always disliked when people try to attach themselves to things that they are not connected to directly, and especially when the urge is due to subconscious or overt trend following."

Aren't all Americans directly connected to 9/11? I don't live anywhere near the twin towers, but I was attacked like the rest of my countrymen and women.

Not into tatoos though.

David said...

I'm with Uncle Jimbo;

Never Forget!

Simon Kenton said...

Vicky -



HT Hugh Hewitt

Vicky said...


Thank you for the link. The song really is moving to me in a way that is probably too personal for this forum.

Revenant said...

I've always disliked when people try to attach themselves to things that they are not connected to directly

Being an American is, in and of itself, sufficient to qualify for a personal connection to 9/11, just as being a black American in the 1960s would have been sufficient to feel a personal connection to the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

While all Americans should remember the events of September 11th, and indeed the whole nation is affected by that day, I just suspect that some people (firemen, police officers, the victims, their families, local residents of NYC, Pentagon staff) suffered in ways that we cannot even calculate, or understand. We are all once removed from those who experienced direct loss.

Like the singer Madonna wearing a cross (and trivializing a powerful symbol), the 911 tatoo ends up being more about the wearer, and less about what it represents.

Militarybound said...

I say hell yes every American should have one that says" September 11th 2001 Never Forget, Never Forgive"

This war we are in is a long war, and you know what it is going to take a long time to properly pay those SOB's back for what they did to us.

abby said...

thousands of American lives were taken in moments thousands of families were ripped apart in seconds and billions of American lives were changed in minutes on september 11th 2001. i would get the twin toweres standing tall and proud like they were with the words "9/11 will lie in our hearts forever" written in cursive underneath. i may have only been seven but i still remember the words the moment of silent and the effect it had on my friends family neighbors and teachers.
-13 year old kid