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Tattoos help 9/11 survivors cope with physical, emotional scars

Posted at 7:32 PM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 19:32:55-04

NEW YORK (WPIX/CNN) - A group of famous tattoo artists is on a mission to help cover the scars of 9/11 survivors and first responders.

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

"We worked our way down the steps - we were going out underground on the concourse level by the mall and the South Tower fell on top of us ended up killing four of my coworkers," Canavan said. "It buried me, but I was able to move around - took about 20 minutes of digging [to escape.]"

An artist with Artists for Israel worked for a couple of hours to create an image on Canavan's arm. Canavan said he hopes the tattoo will help heal his personal scars.

The artists worked through Wednesday afternoon, sharing reflections of 9/11.

Brian Bronco was a financial services consultant who escapes floor 78 of the South Tower just before it fell. His colleague - who decided to return to his office to talk to his wife on the phone - never made it.

"Survivor's guilt is very bad," Bronco said. "You know why did I get out and the person I was leaving with didn't get out?"

Bronco got a very special, symbolic tattoo on his leg.

"I want something more patriotic like the American eagle on it, 'Never forget' and the towers themselves," Bronco said. "Almost like the Sun kind of coming out - almost like it's a new day type of thing.

"We really hope that by tattooing the outside we help to begin healing some of the inside pain," said Craig Dershjowitz, Artists of Israel's president.

"A lot of the guys here today wanted the world to know that 9/11 isn't just a one-day-a-year thing," Dershjowitz said. "It's something they live with 365 days [a year] and that tattoo on their body gives them a chance to shout that to the world."

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