Workers covered the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno prior to taking it away. About 50 fans watched the actual removal Sunday morning.
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — There was the woman who screamed about the cowardice of president Rodney Erickson, and the yelp of "We are … Penn State," as a forklift carried away the famous statue of Joe Paterno. But mostly the small crowd outside Beaver Stadium displayed a quiet longing for the object of their 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. Alumna Torill Nelson arrived 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."
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 on Friday. Each wore his navy graduation gown and his cap with white tassel.
Scaffolding to be covered by tarps frames the statue. Penn State's president said leaving the sculpture in place would be a recurring wound to abuse victims.
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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.
On Friday night, a handful of supporters stayed late into the night. They did the same on Saturday and on 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 removed.
"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 began 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 a vehicle asked for the exact location. It's hard to believe she didn't know.
By midday, a minishrine 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.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mark Dent is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Mark Dent at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter @mdent05.
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