Paterno statue removed at stadium
The Joe Paterno statue, its head covered in a tarpaulin but its upraised finger still visible, is prepared for removal Sunday from the monument outside Beaver Stadium.
Recent Penn State graduate Patrick Thorp has a moment of silence Sunday at the fence that blocks the site of the Joe Paterno statue after its removal.
People from the community try to get a look at the site in which the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno stood sits empty after it was removed by workers outside Beaver Stadium on Sunday in State College. Penn State's president, Rodney Erickson, made the decision Sunday to remove the statue in the wake of the child sex scandal of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. It's believed that Paterno had detailed knowledge of Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children before and after Mr. Sandusky retired from coaching at Penn State.
Police and construction workers have surrounded the Joe Paterno statue in State College on Sunday.
State College and Penn State police form a line in front of Beaver Stadium moments after the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was removed Sunday. The famed statue of Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- There was the woman who screamed about the cowardice of president Rodney Erickson, then came the yelp of "We are ... Penn State," as a forklift carried away the famous statue of football coach Joe Paterno, but mostly the small crowd outside Beaver Stadium displayed a quiet longing for their object of devotion.
Some of them understood. Some of them didn't. Most of them came to mourn.
Three college-aged students who declined to give their names slumped over the crowd-control barrier long after the statue's removal, staring at the void. Torill Nelson, an alumna, arrived Sunday morning just before they took the statue away. Her voice quivered slightly as she spoke.
"It was like a second death," she said. "All over again."
Penn State University announced Sunday that it was taking down the 7-foot-tall, 900-pound monument in the wake of an investigative report that found that the late coach and three top university administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys, sometimes on Penn State's campus.
The fans started coming on Friday. That morning, reports surfaced that the statue wouldn't make it through the weekend. People began gathering for final pictures, congregating under a gray sky that was finally free of an airplane that had flown in the middle of the week, towing a message that demanded the statue's removal.
Andrew Hanselman and Shawn Newlin came in the early afternoon Friday. Each wore his navy graduation gown and his cap with white tassel. They graduated this spring but didn't stop for a picture at the statue. They wanted a final opportunity.
"I wanted to be able to remember the good times with Joe," Mr. Newlin said, "and try not to let it outweigh the bad."
On Friday night, a handful of supporters stayed late into the night. They did the same Saturday and into Sunday morning.
The process happened quickly on Sunday. At 7 a.m., Mr. Erickson issued a statement explaining that the statue would be removed and taken to a secure place. He acknowledged his decision wouldn't be popular. He said Paterno Library's name should remain unchanged but believed the statue needed to be stored in a secure location.
"I believe that, were it to remain," Mr. Erickson said, "the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse."
Police officers had begun cordoning the area of the statue with a makeshift blue fence about 30 minutes before the statement was released. They posted "No Trespassing" signs on the fence.
Perhaps 50 people witnessed the actual removal, but fans kept coming throughout the rest of the morning. Vincent Tedesco, who graduated in 1964, brought a lawn chair and a life-size cardboard cutout of Paterno that he bought 30 years ago and sat on the south side of the stadium. He intended to stay until dusk.
"One person gave me the finger," he said. "There were lots of handshakes."
Mr. Tedesco presented an extreme case of devotion, but he wasn't alone. It seemed everyone in State College, from lifers to students to visitors, needed to find another image of Paterno on Sunday.
Many of them headed for McKee Street, where the Paterno family lives. A woman passing in an SUV asked for the exact location. It's hard to believe she didn't know.
By midday, a mini-shrine had taken root on the front sidewalk, with white roses, encouraging posters and a lit candle sitting there, a world away from a stadium, construction crew or the governance of a university.
First Published July 23, 2012 12:00 am