Permanent Ink: Tattoos Memorialize Boston Marathon Bombings
This story re-aired on WBUR’s Morning Edition on October 14, 2013.
The Boston Marathon bombing has become an indelible part of the collective memory of this city. In the weeks and months since April 15, many Bostonians have chosen to remember that day with an equally indelible memorial on their own bodies: they’ve gotten tattoos, inked by local professional artists, who donated the proceeds to The One Fund.
Now, a local photographer is documenting these tributes on skin, in a project called “Bled for Boston.”
Radio Boston’s Dina Rosendorff visited a recent photo shoot that took place just three blocks from the bombing site near Copley Square.
In the weeks and months after the horrific events of April 15, Jasmine Scott, like many Bostonians, sought to commemorate her love for the city in the most permanent way possible.
“My tattoo is this anchor right here. It’s actually a U.S. Navy design but we tailored it to be for Boston,” Scott explained. “I asked the artist to do something traditional and he stuck with the black, red and yellowish tones, and I really like how it came out. It’s on my upper thigh.”
Scott’s boyfriend, Dan Given, was also inked.
“It’s on the shin. It’s like a shield with the eagle and an anchor. And it says Boston in scroll,” Given explained. “I love the colorwork. I just told the artist to do whatever he thought would work.”
Given says he got the tattoo after hearing shops were donating their profits to The One Fund. Scott and Given were inked at a shop in Maine.
“We waited a long time because there were so many people that wanted to get tattoos,” Scott said. “And we got out of there at like 1 a.m. maybe, and it was just a cool feeling that the shop said we’ll stay open as long as you guys want.”
Salem photographer Chris Padgett got his own memorial tattoo: the Boston skyline etched onto his forearm.
“I was sitting in the lobby of Good Mojo Tattoos in Beverly where I got my Boston theme tattoo done. I kept seeing people coming through, young couples getting the same tattoos in the same spot and it just occurred to me that there were a lot of people, you know, a touch affected, or however you want to put it, by marathon Monday and wanted to express it somehow and that’s the way they chose and I thought it would be neat to take pictures of them,” he said.
Chris Padgett has already photographed more than 40 people for his “Bled For Boston” exhibit. It will go on display at the Boston Center For Adult Education in April, in the lead-up to the first anniversary of the bombings.
He says some of the people he’s captured were directly affected by the blasts, others simply wanted to show their solidarity with the city and its victims.
“It’s been a little bit of everybody. A fair people were actually running the marathon and were stopped along the way,” Padgett explained. “One lady whose picture I haven’t gotten yet but who really kind of inspired this whole thing has “Boston Strong” in blue and gold tattooed on her neck for the world to see. There are a lot of Boston Red Sox Bs or Bruins spoked B logos, but they’re usually followed with ‘strong’ or the marathon ribbons. One guy whose picture I took the other day has a huge marathon ribbon down the back of his upper arm, but in there are the initials of his six friends who were injured in the blasts.”
Padgett says he also hopes to photograph the father of one of the victims, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell.
“He has her portrait tattooed very prominently on his chest,” Padgett said. “You know, it’s one of those things where that’s extremely personal, literally over his heart, so I’d like people to know that she has been commemorated in that way.”
Nurse Rachel Cockerline was volunteering for the third year in a row at the Boston Marathon with five of her colleagues from Lowell General Hospital when the bombs went off.
“We were in medical tent A, which was right near the finish line when the bombs went off,” Cockerline said. “So they brought a bunch of victims into the tent. And we helped to stabilize some wounds, start IVs and get them into the ambulances as they came.”
She says getting a matching memorial tattoo was cathartic for her and her friends. A way they unite and could pay tribute to their shared experience.
“It’s something that’s never going to go away in our minds. So we decided that it was something, kind of in honor and memory of we had to do that day, to have it permanently on us.”
Cockerline got her tattoo on her shoulder. She says four of her colleagues have it on their legs and one on their rib cage.
“It says ‘Boston Stong’ with the marathon leaves with a caduceus in the middle with a nurses cap that says ‘R.N.’ and then the date in the middle. So within the marathon leaves, the wreath, six of them are a different color to represent the six of us.”
Cockerline says the tattoo has helped bring her and her colleagues closer together.
“Being there together has been a great support. We’re able to talk with each other when something upsets us, something that even close family members can’t really understand,” she said. “It very much made us feel that we did something good because it’s been hard to feel that way. So the tattoo’s kind of a reminder of the good thing that we did that day.”
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