9/11 survivors get scars covered by tattoo artists for free

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NEW YORK — A group of famous tattoo artists is on a mission to help cover the scars of 9/11 survivors and first responders with artwork on their bodies.

The artists, through an organization known as Artists 4 Israel, gathered at the Apollo Theater where they performed their handiwork on a select group of 11 survivors, including Thomas Canavan, who was working for a banking institution on the 47th floor of the North Tower when the plane hit.

He said he was in the lobby with four colleagues when the building collapsed. He was trapped below the rubble but dug himself out. The others with him did not survive.

Artist Zero worked for hours to create an image on Canavan's arm -- an image he said would help heal his personal scars.

"As much as I can see the towers in my mind, now I can see them every day in the mirror," he said.

As the artists worked through the afternoon, they shared reflections of that fateful day in 2001.

Brian Branco was a financial services consultant who got out of the 78th floor of the South Tower just in time with a colleague who decided to return to the office to call to his wife on the phone. He never made it out.

"Survivors guilt is painful," he said. "I often ask, 'Why did I survive?'"

The tattoo he placed on his leg is symbolic and patriotic: an eagle with the sun shining to connote a new day.

Craig Dershjowitz is president of Artists 4 Israel and organizer of the tattooing event. He said that many find comfort in the images they have painted on their bodies, images that will serve as a reminder to never forget.