SPENCER, W.Va. — There is no policy manual when it comes to helping a teenager handle the death of another teenager. Staff, faculty, and coaches in Roane County this week are having to wing it and trust their gut.
It’s going to be a difficult week at the school following the untimely death of senior football player Alex Miller who collapsed and died in a game last Friday night at Clay County.
“It’s hard for us to help them deal with it because it’s not supposed to happen. It’s not something we’re trained to deal with and it’s not something they expect. They were expecting when the first quarter broke, take a break get back in there and have a great football game,” said Roane County Schools Superintendent Richard Duncan.
“Instead what happened since then has been something no young person, no teacher, no coach, and no parent should ever have to go through,”
But they are going through it. Students are in the midst of being forced to grow up and accept what can often be harsh life lessons. One of the hardest to accept is life goes on. Fortunately, Roane County already had an open date on the football schedule this Friday night.
Next week the team will return to the field, one light, to take on Braxton County at home. It promises to be an emotional night where Miller may be an inspiration.
“He was exactly the kid we want in our schools and representing our schools both on the field and off the field. He was just a wonderful kid,” Duncan said.
As word spread of the tragedy Saturday, the messages of sympathy and support flowed into the tiny town of Spencer.
“We’ve seen just how great the statewide community is,” Duncan said. “It’s been incredible the outpouring of support from not just in the state, but from Ohio, eastern Kentucky, and as far away as Myrtle Beach. It’s been people just reaching out and letting us know we’re in their thoughts and prayers.”
Several neighboring counties have sent their own grief counselors to Roane County High School to help students deal with the loss and work through the pain.
The support has grown organically. Players from several West Virginia and Ohio high school teams stood along the roadsides of their communities Sunday to solicit donations and raised more than $7,000 for Miller’s family to help with expenses.
On social media, Tuesday has been dubbed “Roane Raider Tuesday.” Students, faculty, and staff along with the general public are being encouraged to don maroon and silver on Tuesday as a sign of respect and support to the Roane County community and Miller’s family.
Other schools across West Virginia were encouraging students to participate in the day of support.
“His friends have said wonderful things about him and about how he took care of him,” Duncan said. “I think this is part of the great tragedy here, is people realize he was such a great individual and such a young individual to have lost his life so early,”