Va. Tech Tragedy’s Impact Reaches Ocean City

BERLIN – As the world learned about the deadly shooting at
Virginia Tech University on Monday morning, at least one local family was breathing
a sigh of relief.

Alison Miller, a 2006 graduate of Stephen Decatur High
School, is currently enrolled as a freshman at Virginia Tech. Miller, the
daughter of Peck and Patti Miller, former owners of Ocean City businesses
Sailing Etc. and Mellow Beach, was in her dormitory room when the first
shooting occurred. Miller is living in the East Ambler Johnston, which is
adjacent to where a woman and a man were gunned down by Virginia Tech senior
Cho Seung-Hui, who has been described by roommates and college and high school
classmates as a disturbed loner. After the shooting at the dormitory, Seung-Hui
reportedly mailed a disturbing package to NBC News and then proceeded to Norris
Hall where he opened fire, killing 31 people including himself.

Peck Miller, a local developer and Realtor, said this week
the tragedy hits close to home for him. He graduated from Virginia Tech with a
degree in architecture and his daughter began her college career there last

Miller said he first heard about the shooting from a
friend who had come across the news on the Internet. He then contacted his

“She tried to call, but she couldn’t call out. So I called
her and she said she had been trying to call us. I asked her, “did she see
this?’ and she said, ‘yeah, it’s not any better, there’s more shootings going
on across campus,’” Miller said. “She was in her dorm and they were basically
in lockdown. She could watch TV and use email and talked to all her friends and
make sure they were all fine.”

Miller said his daughter did not know any of the victims
specifically, but he said some of her friends knew the first female victim of
the rampage and others were impacted other ways.

“The thing is it doesn’t matter if you know them or you
don’t them – it just hurts. If you know of someone that even knows of someone,
you just feel for anybody,” Miller said. “I spoke to a contractor who lives
there and has lived there all his life. He’s an older gentleman and he’s just
beside himself over it. It’s something really tragic going on in this small

Miller said the questioning of campus authorities and
officials over whether the situation was handled properly is understandable,
but he reiterated it does nothing to diminish the reality of the incident.

“There’s always the ‘what if’s’ and the arm-chair
quarterbacking, dissecting everything and what could have happened, but it’s
just an unfortunate sad, sad thing,” Miller said. “It’s just a horrible,
horrible situation.”

Miller, a member of the Ocean City Planning Commission,
said there are a number of former local students currently enrolled at Virginia
Tech. He said all the local students were unharmed.

As for Alison Miller, she attended the memorial
convocation on Tuesday and has enjoyed campus life since she enrolled,
according to her father.

“She loves the school and is studying architecture and
really likes the architecture program and is having a great time playing club
lacrosse and has a ton of new friends,” Miller said. “She loves it there. It’s
a tremendously laid back town, a little bit like Berlin. It’s as historic
looking as Berlin but it has a campus attached to it. It’s a very small

Miller was relieved classes were canceled this week and he
hopes the time off allows the students time to absorb it and reflect.

“I think they all need to take a break and be away from
the area. I think it was a great call by the president and the school to cancel
classes and let these kids be with their family and friends and start the
healing process,” Miller said. “I think a change of environment is a good thing
and then they can get back to school. It’s something you can’t put away, you
have to deal with it.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.