Friends, family mourn child's death

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2011

By Nathan Hardin
For the Salisbury Post
Brittany Cook rode the bus to school with Trent Brown Jr. every day, and she said he “always put a smile on everyone’s face.”
On Thursday, however, Trent wasn’t on the bus. When it drove past his house on Old Beatty Ford Road, a dirt bike, a flag and a wreath sat in the front yard. And the students cried.
Cook, a good friend and classmate of Trent, said the somber mood continued after she arrived at school, with many students writing personal messages about Trent on their arms and clothes.
“Some students had drawn on their shirts and some had worn bandanas to honor him,” the 13-year-old said. Trent lived with his grandparents, Andrew and Sara Brown, who own Brown’s Why Knot Upholstery on Old Beatty Ford.
Trent died after an accident Tuesday. A rebel flag he was wearing as a cape became caught in the dirt bike’s rear wheel. As the boy was thrown from the bike, the flag tightened around his throat and caused the motorbike to land on him.
Despite reports that Trent’s family was going to take him off life support, Cook said the news still hit her hard.
“That afternoon the phone rang. It said Charles C. Erwin Middle School on the caller ID, so I answered it. It said we had lost a very important member of our school,” Brittany said.
“I knew it was true then, but I didn’t want to believe it,” she said.
His grandmother, Sara Brown, a longtime member of Organ Lutheran Church, said she’s relying on her faith through the tragedy.
“Everything’s gone, but he’s in the Lord’s hands and he’s in a much better place than we are,” Brown said. “The Lord was looking after him. I want to thank everybody who has brought in food and Erwin Middle School.”
Brown said she’ll remember Trent for his energy and spirt.
“He was a very outgoing little boy. He had lots of friends,” Brown said. “Facebook has gone wild. His iPod has gone wild. His telephone has gone wild with calls.”
Brown said she had a bad feeling before Trent put the flag on.
“I didn’t want him to wear this thing, but he wanted to because it was new and he wanted to see it flying in the wind and he loved his dirt bike,” she said.
Trent’s uncle, Eric Brown, said the flag had to be cut from his neck before EMS crews arrived on the scene. He said the knot tying the flag on was a square knot, which tightened after it was caught in the rear wheel.
“Even if he had used a bungee cord, it wouldn’t have hurt him,” he said.
Eric Brown said he’ll remember Trent for being fast paced and adventurous.
“If it had a motor, he wanted to ride it,” he said. “It could be anything from a go- kart to a combine. He drove a combine in Kansas.”
Rowan-Salisbury School System spokeswoman Rita Foil said the district was working to help students at Erwin Middle School work through their grief.
“Our district’s LINKS team was at Erwin this morning in the Media Center to receive any students that needed a place to grieve and remember their friend,” Foil wrote in an email.
Foil said the LINKS counselors will be at Erwin Middle School again today to help with grieving students.
“I was over at Erwin for a couple of hours this morning and things were processing as smoothly as can be expected,” Foil said. “Students had an opportunity to grieve with each other, in addition to the LINKS team being available for individual and group counseling.”
Foil said the LINKS program, under Carol Anne Houpe, provided a safe environment for students to express and share feelings.
“Students wrote cards, signed posters and cried on each others shoulders,” Foil said. “This is a very difficult time for these students, especially the students that were close to Trent.”
Brittany, Trent’s friend and classmate, said a lot of students went to the library for counseling, but that for her, the posters and photos of Trent only made the grief worse.
“It really didn’t help me,” she said. “I just couldn’t go up there.”
Brittany said she’s focusing on the happy times. She said she will remember the bus rides most.
“He was funny. He was a fighter,” Cook said. “Nothing could tear him down. He didn’t let anything get to him.”
Despite the grief, Trent’s grandmother is trying to think about the people his death has helped.
“Good things come out of badness,” she said.
Trent was an organ donor, she said, and the tragedy has saved lives.
“A lady got his kidneys the night the plug was pulled,” Sara Brown said. “She had tried twice before to get kidneys. She’s doing wonderfully.”
Because Trent was a donor, his body was cremated. Tentatively, the family plans to have a visitation at 1 p.m. Saturday at Organ Lutheran Church. A service of life will follow immediately after.