WASHINGTON – Patriotism is getting under Joe Lathe’s skin. Literally.
Spurred by the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, the Catonsville tattoo artist plans to get a tattoo of his own design to show off his patriotism, a red, white and blue snake with the words “Don’t tread on me.”
Tattoo parlors across Maryland report customers this week who wanted patriotic tattoos in response to the attacks.
It is the most extreme example of the patriotic frenzy that has swept the state since Tuesday, depleting stores of American flags, flag stickers, ribbons and other paraphernalia.
At the Target store in Silver Spring, receptionist Kerri Bramwell reported that they sold out of flags by Wednesday morning. Workers at Jo-Ann Etc., a craft store in Columbia, also reported heavy business in symbols of national pride.
“At least one time every five minutes, someone calls asking for flags, but we’ve been out since Wednesday,” said Cindy Polikoss, who works in guest services at Jo-Ann Etc.
Polikoss said that when they cannot find flags, customers comb the store for anything red, white and blue, often settling on decals of stars, flags, eagles and the Statue of Liberty for their car windows.
“A lot of people are buying fleece to make blankets for the firefighters and rescue workers,” said Polikoss. Her own husband, David, is a firefighter who has volunteered at the Pentagon since Tuesday.
She said Jo-Ann stores are giving customers free ribbon kits with red, white and blue ribbons and a gold safety pin.
But wearing a pin is not enough for some people. They’re getting stuck by needles to show their patriotism.
Christine Copeland, a nurse from Port Deposit, went to Doc’s Tattooz to get a small, American flag on her right ankle Thursday.
“I’m sure I’m going to be shocking a few people with this, but that’s OK,” Copeland said. “This is my way of showing support. It’s a shame that it takes something like this for our country to come together.”
Charley Parsons said that since Tuesday, his family-owned parlor in College Park has tattooed two customers with American flag images.
“I think everyone is feeling more patriotic,” said Parsons, co-owner of Charley & Sandy’s Great Southern Tattoo Company. “I think it helps everyone get through this kind of stuff.”
Patriotic tattoos range in design, said artists.
Lathe, of Bear’s Den Tattoo Studio, designed his snake for himself. At Brooklyn Park Tattoo Inc. in Baltimore, a customer whose grandfather was a pilot during World War II asked for crossed American flags, with Tuesday’s date in the middle.
Bill Peoples, owner and tattoo artist at Hysterical Tattoo & Body in Ellicott City, engraved a profile of an eagle with a waving American flag on Hank Mast’s shoulder Thursday.
“I was deeply upset by Tuesday’s events,” said Mast, an employee at Baltimore Gas & Electric.
Artists said they anticipate that more people will request flag tattoos in coming weeks. But they caution that wearing your patriotism on your body can curtail another act of patriotism: Blood banks will not take blood for a year after a potential donor has been tattooed.