Why you should care
Because there are lots of dogs out there. Dogs and heavy metal bands.
One April morning in 2013, I was at school, at my desk, reading The Boston Globe, when I noticed a small item about a boy from Revere, the city where I live and teach, who had been mauled by two Rottweilers the evening before. The seventh-grader was in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital. I thought about that article all day.
The news reported that Brandon and a friend had ridden their bikes to a trucking company with high fences and two guard dogs, Bella and Sonny. Brandon visited them often; to him, the dogs were his friends.
Brandon climbed over the fence to play with Sonny, while Bella slept. While Brandon was playing with Sonny, Bella woke up, and immediately attacked Brandon. Soon both dogs were on him.
Brandon’s condition was grave — he had sustained severe injuries to his head and arms.
Fortunately, his friend had a cellphone and quickly called 911. When the police came, they shot the dogs, but the animals continued their attack. It wasn’t until firefighters arrived and blasted the dogs with water that a police officer was able to jump the fence and lift Brandon to safety.
Brandon’s condition was grave — he had sustained severe injuries to his head and arms. The news played the 911 audio, which was horrifying. You could hear Brandon’s cries to his friend to “Get the dogs off me!” and his friend screaming the dispatcher’s instructions — “Cover your ears and head!” — to him.
My Facebook newsfeed was filled with photos of Brandon, and in nearly every one of them, he was wearing a Slipknot T-shirt. I kept thinking how cool it would be if I could get the band to do something for Brandon.
Although I wasn’t familiar with Slipknot, over the years I’d made some friends in the music world, so I posted about it on Facebook, asking if anyone had any connections to the band. Within seconds, a friend emailed me. He didn’t know Slipknot, but he did know Kevin Lyman, creator of the Warped Tour and Mayhem Festival, both of which Slipknot played on.
I emailed Kevin about what had happened to Brandon. I included a link to the 911 call and the photos of Brandon in his Slipknot T-shirt.
About eight minutes later, I received an email from Kevin. He told me that he had forwarded my email to Slipknot’s management. He also wrote, “Please let Brandon know that when he recovers, he can be a guest of mine at any of my shows.”
A few hours later, I heard from Slipknot’s management team, stating that Slipknot “take their fans very seriously” and “would love a chance to help Brandon.”
That Thursday, Clown — also known as Shawn Crahan — from Slipknot called Brandon and talked with him for 20 minutes. Brandon was overjoyed. Clown also sent Brandon a box of Slipknot merchandise.
Brandon was released from the hospital the following week, after making what could only be described as a miraculous recovery. Because I believe in the restorative power of music, I had no doubt that the call from Crahan helped buoy Brandon’s spirits. That summer, with bandages on his head and arms, Brandon attended both the Warped Tour and Mayhem Festival.
In 2014, Brandon entered my school as a freshman. He had to endure further operations on his head, and he wore a hoodie to cover up the bumps and scars on his skull. He visited me in my room often.
One day he came by, very excited. “Slipknot is playing the Tsongas Arena!” he exclaimed. Earlier, the band had promised Brandon that if they ever played the Boston area, they would give him tickets to the show.
“Can you contact them?” Brandon pleaded.
I found the email for Kim Schnon, part of Slipknot’s management, who was happy to provide tickets for Brandon. But then Brandon came to me distraught. “I have no one to take me to the show! Can you take me?”
I laughed. “I doubt the school will allow a teacher to take a student to a rock concert.”
Brandon wasn’t deterred. He went to see our assistant principal, who, surprisingly, said it was OK as long as Brandon’s parents signed a field trip permission slip. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I contacted my friend Jacqui and asked her if she was up for an adventure. She agreed to drive our crew to the show.
On Dec. 13, we set out for the concert. We got a late start because Brandon had to work until 5:30 pm. When we arrived at the venue, I was handed a bulky envelope; inside were VIP passes. Although we arrived too late for the meet-and-greet, we did have incredible seats.
Slipknot proved themselves to be one of the hardest-working bands I’ve ever seen in concert. I was impressed with their level of energy — most of the guys were in their 40s, and they respected their fans, which meant they’d give an incredible performance. I hoped that Brandon would take Slipknot’s lessons of hard work with him through high school.
After a two-hour wait in the parking garage, with Brandon’s brother playing Dio on his phone, and Jacqui and I wanting to immolate ourselves, plus a two-hour drive home because we got lost, we dropped the boys off at their house at 2:30 in the morning. Exhausted, I knew that school the next day was going to be miserable. But I was also happy that Brandon’s dream of seeing his favorite band had come true. Happy, and grateful to Slipknot for helping a kid heal with their version of heavy metal. A textbook definition of a win-win-win.