UNHAPPY VALLEY: A day of reflecting on riots ... and victims

Posted: November 11, 2011

STATE COLLEGE - Penn State sophomore Rebecca Keyes broke down in tears yesterday as she reflected on the aftermath of the scandal that has rocked her school community to its core.

Her father, a Penn State alum, is "heartbroken," Keyes said.

"I rarely see my dad get emotional, but he's really upset, and that's really hard," she added. "I love this place so much."

In the wake of revered coach Joe Paterno's firing before the football team's last home game of the season tomorrow and student riots that raged into the wee hours of the morning yesterday, Penn State's quaint rural town was eerily quiet. Students walked the campus' sprawling grounds as usual and even held a small rally outside the Old Main administration building to remind everyone to keep the victims in mind amid the chaos. But a pervasive sense of sadness weighed on most.

Compounding students' somber mood was the fact that some of the thousands of students who took to the streets Wednesday night took their demonstrations too far in the eyes of those who had stayed out of the fray. The rioters shook street lamps to the ground, toppled a news truck and lit small fires.

Despite the mayhem, only one arrest by University Police, for public intoxication, was recorded in the day's log. Damage to Old Main and a university construction site also was reported, cops said.

At a news conference last night, Gov. Corbett used the word "knucklehead" to describe the violent actions of some students. And many students said that those actions reflected poorly on the already suffering university.

"That's not what Joe would have wanted," Keyes lamented, saying that she left Wednesday night's rally when it got out of hand.

"Tipping over a news van isn't going to accomplish anything," said sophomore Jessica Korch, 19, after imploring her fellow students via bullhorn from the steps of Old Main to stop the violence and remember the victims. "It's only causing more damage."

She expressed sadness that the victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged child sex abuse had been pushed to the back burner amid distress over Paterno's untimely exit.

"The root is really Sandusky, and abusing and raping children," she said.

Students held a candlelight vigil for the victims last night at Old Main, and plan to stage a "blue-out" at Saturday's game to show their support for the victims.

About a mile from campus, at the State College Diner, waitress Deborah Schlow reflected on the week's events. A lifelong State College resident, she said that everyone in her family had attended the university. Her family knows Paterno, she said, and she graduated from Penn State in the same class as former athletic director Tim Curley, now charged with aiding in the coverup.

"I'm still speechless. I can't even take it in," said Schlow, 57. "I can't tell you how betrayed I feel. On the other hand, the Board of Trustees handled this very, very badly. They threw Paterno under the bus."

Gov. Corbett yesterday supported the Board of Trustees' decision to swiftly ax both Paterno and university President Graham Spanier.

"I'm disappointed in their actions," Corbett said of the two. "Their actions caused me not to have confidence in their ability to lead."

He declined to comment on the ongoing investigation and said that he was unaware of reports that emerged yesterday that Sandusky allegedly had provided young boys to wealthy donors. He encouraged students to unite in the face of the tragedy.

"Come together," he urged, citing the afternoon's rally at Old Main. "Show solidarity with the victims."

Meanwhile, the university's newly appointed interim president, Rodney Erickson, yesterday called the scandal "a terrible tragedy for everyone involved."

"This is one of the saddest weeks in the history of Penn State," Erickson said. "It has been difficult to comprehend the horrific nature of the allegations that were revealed in the attorney general's presentment last week. As a member of the Penn State community for 34 years, as a parent, and as a grandfather, I find the charges as they have been described to be devastating, and my heart goes out to those who have been victimized and their families."

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