One last trip down Curtin Road
The scene was nearly identical, but the emotion was the exact opposite.
On autumn Saturdays along Curtin Road, a roar floods the pavement near Beaver Stadium during football game days at Penn State.
Fans clad in white and blue with noise makers and Penn State shakers scream and yell for their favorite players and coaches. From students and alumni to children and fans, making the most noise is a source of pride.
When those blue buses roll by, and fans line the road three and four deep, trying to chat with a friend two feet away is as difficult as two people attempting to have a conversation across campus without a telephone.
But Wednesday afternoon was different. When the famous blue Penn State bus drove past the stadium -- headed east on Curtin Road, the reverse of the normal routine – the hum of its engine was all that could be heard. As the casket of a beloved coach drove by, the silence of respect was all around.
Those same fans were there, three and four deep once more. They were still dressed with Penn State pride. They were still supporters of a team most of them grew up adoring.
But driving by on this chilly Wednesday afternoon was a bus filled with memories, not with players ready to take the field.
In the front seat of the first bus was not Joe Paterno, but his wife, Sue. In a seat her husband had held for decades, Sue held a grandchild on her lap and blew kisses to the crowd.
The residents of Paternoville, who wait in the cold for a chance at a front-row seat on Saturday, were weeping and hugging on Wednesday. Whiteout shirts usually damp with sweat and rain on those game days were wet with tears on burial day.
John Tecce, president of Paternoville, said he had thought about this moment, but was never truly prepared.
It was a moment he knew would eventually come, but never really believed that it would.
But Jan. 25, 2012 did come, and Penn State fans honored Joe Paterno in the only way they knew – the same way they had for the 46 seasons he spent as head coach.
“I’m grateful that I was able to be here while he was here and to experience the Penn State tradition with him while he was part of it,” Ashley Todd, a senior on the Penn State softball team said.
“I’m very glad to have been part of it, no matter what part of his career it was. We’re all blessed to have been a part of him.”