a penn state reflection

I was going to wait until the end of the weekend to post anything from my Penn State trip on here, but I want to write while it’s fresh. It won’t be much to read, but I’m putting these words down as much for myself as I am for anyone else.

After traveling from 4 a.m to 4 p.m. to get to State College, puking on the first plane flight (in the bathroom, not in the barf bag) and sitting through countless delays, we arrived in State College, Pa., where the town is mostly made up of its college student population, which is somewhere around 40,000.

To preface this, before the trip I was looking forward to, honestly, a weekend of getting to party with Penn State photojournalists and shooting a good football game. But the events of the past week changed the meaning of this trip quite a bit.

So I was looking forward to this vigil more than anything else on Friday. Thousands of students gathered outside of Old Main on campus and held candles, listened to speakers and sang along to songs all to support the alleged victims of sexual abuse in the Sandusky case, and all other youth who are sexually abused.

These are the same students who, two days prior, flipped a news van over and knocked down a few light poles in a riot following the firing of the highly regarded Joe Paterno. Back in Lincoln I thought these kids were idiots, why would they riot in support of a man who didn’t speak out to the police when he knew the terrible things he was doing?

The vigil, and the students who attended it, helped change my perception of that a bit. I still think the rioting was unwarranted and casts a bad light on their student body, but JoePa is like a grandpa to these kids. And, out of the blue, he was taken away from them.

While that doesn’t make their actions on Wednesday night acceptable, it did make me feel more empathetic toward them, and toward all those that look up to Paterno. The cab driver who took us to campus from the airport said JoePa being fired felt like a “death in the family.”

I was inspired by how many students were out in support of raising awareness for this issue. It’s sad that it takes such horrible and public occurences to cause people to care about issues such as these…..

And it was nice to hear Bo Pelini say that the Sandusky case, and child abuse in general, was more important than football.

But even after that touching event, State College is still just another college town, with vodka and beer all over the floor of the elevator to the Collegian photo editor’s apartment. Not that being a college town or drinking a lot are bad, but it brought me back to reality.

The DN sports editor and I relaxed and stayed up too late, but the next morning we arrived at the game. I’d only heard nasty things about Penn State fans, but they were calm and nice throughout the morning. I think the athletic departments at both schools made a good move by joining teams and kneeling in the middle of the field for a prayer before the game started.

It was mindblowing and made your heart pang to see a stadium of 110,000 fans fall silent while the teams joined in prayer.

Of course I didn’t make a good picture of the situation.

But I do think that it helped make everyone realize just what Bo had said, that issues like child sexual abuse are more important than football. And the fans stayed respectful and lively for the whole game, as far as I could tell.

After a boring first quarter, the game picked up and I had a great time.

I’m not sure what tonight will bring in terms of photos, but this has been an incredible trip that I won’t forget. And to all of the Penn State Collegian writers and photographers that I met, it was great to spend time with you and hope to see you around in the future.

See you tomorrow, Nebraska.

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