Why an NYPD Officer who responded on 9/11 got tattoos made of his loved ones’ DNA

NYPD Officer Johnny Walker was off-duty on the morning of September 11, 2001 and spent three days straight on the bucket brigade, then worked more than 400 hours on the pile in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. He told Jack Crosbie of Men’s Health his story.

Walker was diagnosed with 9/11-related colon cancer in 2015, which has spread to several lymph nodes. He faces cancer and chemo for the rest of his life.

He decided to get tattoos made with his loved ones’ DNA (obtained from cheek swabs), regarding it as similar to the way he once wore his family’s photos in his hat or inside his body armor while on the job. He now bears the DNA of his wife, daughter, son, and NYPD partner in four different tattoos.

“Processing my fight with cancer has been a lot like dealing with what I went through on 9/11 — both experiences changed my life and who I am completely,” he said.

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