Under the Ink

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Since WWII, tattoos have been mostly the stuff of sailors and soldiers. But Sept. 11, 2001 changed that.

George Selleck of Peaches Tattooing in Harrisonburg says, "People are getting more patriotic. You just see it more in people's tattoos."

Recently, patriotism has been flying high with American flag and eagle tattoos. But one piece in particular has tattoo artist George Selleck eager to ink.

"I just started kicking around ideas and said how about if we do not just the World Trade Center because they're no longer there, but we'll do ghosted out images of the World Trade Center," he explains.

His living canvas? Charlie Earley, a volunteer firefighter with the Swoope Fire Department. Charlie decided he wanted to pay tribute to that tragedy in a special way.

"I wanted to do it for all the brothers in the fire service," explains Charlie.

It took him almost a year, and one very special image, to come up with the memorial he'll take to his grave.

"After I saw the three New York firefighters putting the flag up I sat and thought about it and said okay this is what I want on my back," he says.

Not only is Charlie's patriotic display the largest George has ever done in his 25 years of tattooing, it's also the largest of its kind he's ever heard of.

George approached this massive undertaking piece by piece. First, a Maltese Cross, the firefighters' emblem. Next, transparent twin towers. Then, the most important detail, a trio of heroes, erecting an American flag in the World Trade Center rubble.

"I'm trying to get the muscle tone in this fire fighter's arm here," George says.

Charlie is only 12 hours into this 12-month investment. He's got about 20 more hours to go. The price tag for this kind of patriotism is $2,000. But Charlie says it's worth every penny, and every inch.

“Everybody I've shown it to. They're just amazed," says Charlie.

It's a memorial to the 343 who lost their lives. And a tribute Charlie and George say they won't ever forget.

"These are the real American heroes. People will get Superman or Spiderman on their backs. No, no. These are the real Americans right here," says George.

Charlie has actually contacted one of those three now famous New York Firefighters. And he's been invited to visit and show off his tattoo when it's done.


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