A sense of loss and celebration
Even the sky appeared sad as rain poured over Penn State campus on Thursday. An enormous train of cars with Penn State logos, holding followers of the Nittany Lions, pointed toward the Bryce Jordan Center for the memorial service for their coach, their father, their JoePa. Not far away, outside Beaver Stadium, students and friends of the late Joe Paterno showed their support at his statue with flowers and thank you cards scattered like the confetti from a National Championship celebration.
Thousands of devoted supporters, friends, students, family and players were part of “A Memorial for Joe.” Students gathered inside and outside the Bryce Jordan Center to show support and give thanks to the man who inspires them to be Penn Staters. Tony Chupalio, a Penn State junior and finance major, gave thanks to the coach. “I said a prayer for his family and thanked him for being the father of Penn State,” Chupalio said. “He was Penn State and we will continue to do what he preached.”
Inside the arena, there was a strong sense of loss and celebration. Many Penn State alumni and friends paid their respects to Joe through personal anecdotes and stories that made the audience tear with happiness. Present players from the NFL and past Penn State teams all spoke with the highest honor for their coach and their life mentor. Michael Robinson, quarterback of the 2005 Big Ten champions and Orange Bowl winners, summed up JoePa’s legacy for many of the athletes in attendance. “He didn’t lie to me,” Robinson said. “He didn’t lie to me at all. Not once.”
Students fortunate enough to obtain free tickets in the few minutes they were available were moved from the eruptions of applauses and videos that documented the life of a true humanitarian. Those in attendance, like junior computer science major Joe Haffen, appreciated the importance of continuing the tradition of success with honor. “I am proud to be a Penn Stater today,” Haffen said. “Joe Pa will live on in each and every student because he believed in all of us.”
Penn State lost a great leader and a great man in Joseph Vincent Paterno. With the devotion of thousands of students and even more alumnus, Paterno will always be remembered in State College from his statues and constant reminders of his presence throughout the campus. As a sea of attendees poured out of the Bryce Jordan Center Thursday afternoon after the service ended, distant shouts of “We love you Joe” and “You are Penn State” echoed throughout the area. It was the perfect tribute for the man who inspires of all us to be Penn State.