SPENCER, W.Va. — Classmates of Roane County High School senior Alex Miller formed a semi-circle around Miller’s painted parking space at the school near Spencer Saturday to say goodbye to their friend who tragically died just eight days earlier when he collapsed during the Roane-Clay football game.
Miller, 17, was remembered in visitation and funeral services inside the school just a few feet away from that space which has served as a memorial this past week. Its newly painted message is that Miller was powered by ‘Angel Wings’ shortly after he went unconscious on the sidelines between the first and second quarters of the Sept. 13 game.
The space is surrounded by Dr. Pepper bottles and cans.
“Alex’s favorite drink was Dr. Pepper and he loved Oreo Blizzards,” Boggs Fork Community Church youth leader Fred Hammack said Saturday when he spoke to reporters outside the school. “Dr. Pepper was his drink of choice and I think these kids have probably drank more Dr. Pepper than they have all year long.”
There were dozens of teenagers at Saturday’s services. Many wearing the maroon of Roane County High but there were also students from other schools and football players from other schools there wearing their jerseys. Hammack said he’s not surprised at the support from both Roane County and the surrounding region.
“They rally. When everything just goes bad this community rallies. I’ve always said, ‘even your enemies will come out,’ and they do,” Hammack said.
Hammack knew Miller on a more personal level having been his church youth group leader. He said Miller had a strong testimony, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that’s what gives hope within the tragedy.
“These kind of days you have to really cling to that. We know we’re going to see him again. I know I haven’t seen Alex for the last time,” Hammack said.
2019 Roane County High graduate Sharalin Metzger traveled from college in Ohio to Saturday’s funeral. She was also in Miller’s church youth group.
“He was definitely a leader and you could really see Jesus through him and the love he had for God,” Metzger said. “I think he definitely showed the way Jesus is and he loved everyone and I think that’s what people could see through him. He didn’t judge them, he was just friends with everyone.”
Counselors will be back at the school Monday morning, Roane County School Superintendent Richard Duncan said Saturday.
“We want to be here for our kids as much as we can and provide those additional counselors and social workers and support personnel to be with them,” Duncan said. “That’s the biggest thing is just to be with them.”
Duncan said there will be time for review how the school system has responded to the tragedy. He said the number one priority has been Miller’s family and friends.
“Whatever response we have as a system pales in comparison to what the Miller family has been going through and what Alex’s close friends have been going through,” Duncan said. “We do hope that at least we’ve shown when crisis does happen we have ways of being there with people.”
Next Friday will likely be another emotional time when the Roane County Raiders play for the first time since Miller’s death. Duncan said he expects an inspired performance from Miller’s teammates in a home game against Braxton County.
“We’re going to have additional support there for the boys. We’ve been working real close with our coaching staff to make sure our boys have their minds in the right place. It’s going to be tough getting back on the field next Friday night and every Friday night. It’s the new normal,” Duncan said.
A cause of death has not been determined.