Guest Post written by our great and good friend Rob (aka Tailgating Coordinator) sharing and recounting his trip to Penn State January 27th - 28th. Thanks Rob.
24 hours in State College
Jan 27-28, 2012
by Rob Milnes
Sometimes, it just doesn’t sink in until you’re there. That’s how I felt when my Grandfather passed away almost 10 years ago and that’s how I felt when I heard the news that Joe Paterno had passed away. Both times, I heard the news and did what I needed to do to get “home.” It wasn’t until I got “home” that it really hit me.
It was definitely a tough week. Joseph Vincent Paterno was falsely reported to have past away on Saturday, Jan 21, 2012. That report was false, but it turned out he he didn't have much more time. That night, snow fell in State College, giving Beaver Stadium one last whiteout for Joe. Joe passed away on Sunday morning. I was very sad and cried a lot on Saturday. Both days, I found myself watching sports center by myself just to really believe that it was true. The last time that I had done this was when Joe was fired and it just feels odd to be watching sports center at home.
Monday at work was tough. My co-workers had actually taken bets as to whether I’d come in or be in State College. Unfortunately, I went to work, but I was wearing as much PSU gear as I could. I added an “RIP” to my JoePA shrine at my desk, which remains unchanged since I moved to this new desk.
In the news, tons of glowing statements poured in for Joe. The funeral arrangements were announced. The public viewing was Tuesday and Wednesday. A public memorial was planned for Thursday. Tickets were free, but unfortunately, they were gone within minutes of being offered. As I already had Friday off, I decided to head to State College.
Thursday night, i watched the replay of the memorial service for Joe and cried during several points. As Maddy pointed out later, because of the Sandusky scandal, real people got to speak about Joe rather than just the University Big-wigs. All of the speakers were so good, that I barely noticed that almost 2.5 hours had rolled by.
In a tribute to Joe, the stadium lights were left on until he was buried. The pictures from this were amazing, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to see that in person. A week later, I found this great article about when the Stadium lights go off:
It was a cold, rainy day. There was a bit of snow around Ebensberg. The weather accurately reflected my mood: Cold and grey. I got into State College around 2 PM. Typical for me, my first stop was at the meat lab. For those of you who don’t know, it’s across the street from the statue and only open on Fridays.
I grabbed the dog and headed over to the statue. There was maybe about a dozen people at the statue. Traffic cones were set up to keep people moving. It was so quite and that gave me lots of time to take it all in. The collection of tributes was overwhelming. I was completely choked up as I slowly milled around the statue taking pictures and looking at the everyone’s tributes. There were so many things. The top of the wall was lined with candles and flowers. Posters, beads, shakers and pictures were tied to the walls. The ground was piled with flowers, candles, pictures, t-shirts, notes in plastic bags, hats, helmets, jerseys and so many different things. I counted at least 3 bottles of old granddad. There was a gallon of Peachy Paterno. The statue itself was draped with an American flag, a few PSU scarves and someone’s leather jacket. There was a small path around the back wall, so you could get closer to the statue, but the ground was otherwise covered out past the normal sidewalk.
After about half an hour, I needed to continue my journey. Since I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, I wanted to pay my respects at his grave. It turns out that it was actually pretty difficult to locate until that morning. Out of respect for the family, final plans weren’t announced to avoid a media circus or those westboro nutcases at the cemetery with the family on Wednesday.
This article helped me find it.
Seeing the actual flowers from his casket lying on the freshly turned rock and dirt was tough. I sat for a while on a nearby bench, until I could re-gather myself. A few people drove past and it had turned the small dirt road to mud. While the view to Mt. Nittany was nice, it seemed odd that a man who had done so much for so many ends it all here. I hope that get him a nice headstone. I guess those things take time.
Next, I headed downtown. Every place downtown had some type of tribute to Joe. Some were as simple as a picture moved into the front window or a note on the chalkboard at the corner room. There were new posters up near the Saloon and the mural on the side of SBS had been changed. Joe now has a halo. I was surprised to keep seeing the same people over and over again during my journey. It made me feel a little bit better that so many people were so moved by just this one man.
I did stop for a few pig photos with the dog. I’m sure that he hated it, but it’s very rare for me to have him downtown. It’s just hard to get him there when I’m in town. I also stopped by Citizen’s Bank, mainly to see if they had any extra bowl game buttons. I was lucky enough to find one at the game, but not today. I was, however, surprised to find the 2 discontinued buttons (tosu and wisconsin) from the season. Now my collection for 2011 is complete.
I caught up with Jeremy and Heather. We got some dinner then headed downtown. It was nice. The next morning was a bit of a slow start, but I had brunch at my favorite breakfast place: the Green bowl. Carter, Lauren, Tiffany, Steve and Kevin joined me for a very long brunch. We talked about their experiences with the viewing and what I had seen yesterday.
Before leaving, I decided to go visit the statue once more. Being Saturday, many more people had come to pay their respects. There was probably about 100 people there, but it was still equally quiet as yesterday. It was little nicer out today, so I took a walk around the stadium.
I was about to leave town, when I remembered that I could stop at the Creamery. For essentially a random Saturday, the line for ice cream was out the door. Joe would have appreciated that he could make any Saturday, even this cold one in January, feel just a little bit like game day. After making a few purchases including some peachy Paterno to take home, it was 2 PM. My 24 hours in State College was over, but it was an experience that I needed have and will stay with me for a long time. This one man, who I never met face to face, had such an impact on all of the Penn State family was truly amazing.
I miss you, Joe.
Joe Paterno: 1926 - 2012