A community project hosted at Northeastern University

Tattoo and Commemorating The 2013 Boston Marathon Tragedy


           The city of Boston is symbolic of the nature and character of America as a whole. It has its reputation as gritty and resilient being the same community that waged revolution against the full oppressive weight of the British Empire in the name of American independence. Ironically on Patriot’s Day 2013, the Boston community would again prove itself resilient in the face of a threat when two explosions rattled Boylston Street near the Boston Marathon finish line. The Greater Boston Community was struck with a degree trauma after witnessing the events of the 2013 Marathon, but would live up to its feisty reputation when the manhunt for those responsible was a success just five days after the incident. Even so, the trauma still looms…

            Trauma has historically been dealt with in any number of ways, but in the wake of this tragedy, many Bostonians have simultaneously confronted their personal traumas while commemorating their community forfeiting portions of their own skin in permanent ink. People receive tattoos in commemoration of many kinds of experiences, particularly to memorialize an experience monumental in their lives. Tattoo, for instance, has been commonplace for soldiers for ages, marking their experiences somewhere on their bodies in permanent ink, perhaps to permanently embody their experiences onto themselves.  Judith Sarnecki notes in her journal article Trauma and Tattoo that “writing in the flesh in some permanent way help[s] us both to let go and to memorialize a particularly painful or traumatic event in life.” Thus, the commemorative Marathon tattoos embody the personal experiences of Bostonians in their closely-knit community and the community’s hardwearing reaction to the tragedy. Channeling the trauma through tattoo may also be “a way to understand and incorporate a physical and psychological loss while regaining some sense of control and a new sense of empowerment,” says Sarnecki. In the aftermath of the Marathon bombing, the Boston community has only grown more unified. Though it may not be the largest city, the diverse community includes people from every corner of the globe who are proud to call Boston home. Bostonians’ pride in their community is characterized by these tattoos: