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Sept. 11: One year after

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Tattoos become personal memorials to Sept. 11 and lost loved ones

By Tara Godvin, Associated Press

NEW YORK Before Sept. 11, Charlie Ross had three tattoos -- Bugs Bunny, a peace sign and a feather design. After the attack, he added a fourth -- a left forearm design with the Sept. 11 date, the tower and floor from which he escaped, and a cross symbolizing four people who died.

Ross, a manager at Bank of America on the 81st floor of the north tower, lost three co-workers and a friend, Steven Strobert, a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, in the attack.

"New Year's Eve, we all toasted to Steve and kissed my arm," said Ross, 32. "I figure one day we'll all be together."

Ross was hardly alone in deciding that a tattoo could express his feelings about the terrorist attacks that destroyed the trade center and killed 2,800 people.

Soon after the attack, firefighters, police officers and bereaved relatives were flocking to tattoo parlors, seeking solace though memorials inked into their skin. Like those long favored by military veterans, Sept. 11 tattoos have become a public declaration of loss, defiance and survival.

With business virtually shut down after the attacks, MacDougal Street Tattoo in lower Manhattan offered free tattoos to ground zero recovery workers. Many chose from a selection of patriotic and anti-al-Qaida designs put together by co-owner Joshua Everett.

"We were putting in overtime like the guys downtown were putting in overtime," said Everett. "It is probably the most significant thing I've done in tattoo. It made me feel a part of the community."

The proprietors of Island Tattoo, on Staten Island, say they have decorated more than 300 firefighters with a commemorative design. Half of the revenue, they say, is donated to a fund for widows and children -- $11,500 so far. Gary Lustig, a firefighter who designed the tattoo, said it has been "medicinal" in helping firefighters recover emotionally.

Though most customers have asked for simple patriotic symbols like flags and bald eagles, some of the Sept. 11 body art is spectacular.

"Tattooing itself has evolved so that it can meet 9-11," said Dr. Enid Schildkrout, curator of the 2000 exhibition "Body Art: Marks of Identity" at the American Museum of Natural History.

Sept. 11 tattoos represent a convergence of body art's growing popularity and the need to acknowledge that life has changed, Schildkrout said.

"It is a way of remembering something that was going to disappear from your life, of immediately saying this is who I am. I don't want to forget. I don't want anyone else to forget."

She said many designs reflect techniques and styles from Japan, where "yakuza" (gangsters) cover their bodies with tattoos, some of them derived from classic art.

Steven Dunbar, 30, had always wanted a tattoo of King Kong. He now has one, showing the famous ape catching the planes and saving the towers. The design, wrapped around his left leg, took 20 hours to apply and 10 days to heal.

"I thought it was painful. But it wasn't nearly as painful as what other people went through that day," said Dunbar.

Kevin McAleese, 42, a New York City police detective, said he arrived at ground zero as the second tower fell. That day he lost his brother, Brian, a firefighter.

When Brian's body still hadn't been found more than five months later, McAleese said he searched for something to remember him by. A tattoo on his right arm shows the towers inside a badge, surrounded by four shamrocks for the four children Brian, 36, left behind.

"It's been a rough 11 months," said McAleese, anticipating the anniversary. "I plan to be away from every TV."

Four members of the Cannizzaro family have memorial tattoos for firefighter Brian Cannizzaro, 30. Brother Charles and sister-in-law Tami have matching tattoos of his badge number, which he inherited from his father, Sam, a 32-year veteran.

But Sam and his youngest son Craig had another image in mind.

When Brian died in the towers on Sept. 11, Sam said he immediately thought of Brian's favorite movie, "The Gladiator." He decided he wanted a tattoo of his son as the gladiator along with a motto from the movie, "Strength and Honor."

On a computer, the tattoo artist substituted Brian's features for those of actor Russell Crowe and made the figure left-handed, like Brian. After six hours under a buzzing needle, 65-year-old Sam had his first tattoo.

"I thought it was a way that he would be part of me -- just an assurance that he'd be a part of me forever now," said Sam, whose tattoo covers his left calf. "I know that when my time comes we'll be together."

Brian's brother, Craig, 28, put a similar design on his left arm. Continuing a Cannizzaro tradition, he started training this month at the New York City Fire Academy under his brother's and father's badge number. Like Sam, he sees his tattoo of Brian as a way to always keep his brother with him.

"I just know that he'll always be with me," said Craig. "I know I can just look over my shoulder and he's right there."



Today's news:
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Mass. remembers victims
Silence, tears mark day at Logan
Under alert, Mass. carries on
Bush faces day with resolve
World remembers attacks in US
Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
Updated wire coverage

Photo galleries:
Families mourn, remember
Ceremony at Ground Zero
Ceremony at the Pentagon
Ceremony at Pa. crash scene
Remembrances worldwide
Remembrances in Boston

NECN RealVideo:
Moment of silence observed
Ceremony at State House
Gettysburg Address read
Procession at Ground Zero
A somber travel day at Logan
Images of Sept. 11, 2001

 THE SERIES

 DAY ONE   SEPT. 3

Preparing for the worst
Security has become the new norm in Greater Boston.

 DAY TWO   SEPT. 4

Fear and children
Children's responses may shed light on human anxiety, resiliency.

 DAY THREE   SEPT. 5

Muslim minds
The US effort to win over Muslim hearts and minds is failing.

 DAY FOUR   SEPT. 6

Science vs. terrorism
New chemical, biological threats spur nation's top minds.

 DAY FIVE   SEPT. 7

Detainees
For those deported after Sept. 11, the losses are wrenching.

 DAY SIX   SEPT. 8

A special Magazine issue
A Sept. 11 narrative by former Massport chief Virginia Buckingham, plus an essay by Christopher Hitchens.

A special Arts section
How culture has changed since Sept. 11, including a gallery of art inspired by the attacks.

A special Focus section
A look at how the lives of six Americans were altered.

Everywhere USA
Terrorism comes to God's country.

 DAY SEVEN   SEPT. 9

Where is Al Qaeda?
How have bin Laden and his terrorist group eluded US forces?

 DAY EIGHT   SEPT. 10

Two cities
New York and DC one year later.

 DAY NINE   SEPT. 11

America remembers
The US looks back at the terrorist attacks.

Victims and survivors
A year later, still hurting.

A time for bells and remembrance
A clash of views on terror
Limited damage to the economy
Families build support system
NYC's healing process
Finding comfort in the kitchen
Bailey: A day of atonement


From the Associated Press:
Tribute paid with tattoos
Charities changed by 9/11
White House calls home
9/11 stole innocence, love
Man escaped earthquake, 9/11
Update on 9/11's famous faces
Firemen still burying dead
A mother's note to a lost son
9/11 created heroes in death
Voice mails bring comfort
Little things hold memories
87th floor survivor copes
Sampling of 9/11 memorials
Pentagon survivors move on
Moments of silence on Sept. 11
Survivors try to move forward
Families cling to chances
Sept. 11 widow trying to forgive
Widow becomes an advocate
Workplace response varies
Graphic: Funds offer relief





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