Waiting Hours for Just a Moment, With No Complaints
I walked from my office to the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center a little after 1 p.m. Tuesday, thinking I might be early enough to beat the crowds. I wasn’t close.
Heading toward the tail end of a line that snaked back and forth through the Pasquerilla courtyard, Disneyland-style, stretched east on the sidewalk along Curtin Road, and at times extended north onto Shortlidge Road almost to Park Avenue, I got a sense of the crowd that already had turned out for Joe Paterno. This was in the first hour of a 10-hour viewing window on Tuesday, with four more hours scheduled Wednesday morning. This was no surprise.
I joined the crowd and spent two hours in line, all but the last 10 minutes of it outside, before the final stretch. We entered the spiritual center through a side door, shuffled down a hallway and entered the main lobby, where a few more turns of the line finally led us into the main auditorium. The clumps of people thinned into a slow but steadily moving single file, which continued down the aisle on the left side of the large, high-ceilinged room. At the front lay a casket, adorned with flowers.
We turned right, the casket on our left, the already indelible black-and-white image of Paterno, arms crossed and smiling, the only other adornment. On each side of the casket stood a large young man—former Nittany Lion quarterback Daryll Clark ’08 and a current player I didn’t recognize—part of the “honor guard” of lettermen who took turns aside their coach on the stage. The line had moved much more slowly in the early going, as some of those who’d come to pay their respects paused 15 or 20 seconds for prayer and reflection, a practice that must’ve been discouraged by funeral officials mindful of the tens of thousands still to come. By the time I got there, it seemed instinctive for each of us to stop for just a beat before moving on.
Jay Paterno ’91 stood for a time not far from the exit, shaking every hand presented him. I’m told his brother Scott ’97 did the same at other times during the 10-hour public viewing. I don’t know if their other siblings or Joe’s widow, Sue ’62, met the crowd, but it seems safe to assume they did. The Paterno family has made no secret of their appreciation for the public support they’ve received over the past few months.
A friend who was an hour or so behind me in line texted me later to tell me that Tom Bradley ’78, Paterno’s former player, longtime assistant, and interim replacement, had made his way down the line on Curtin Road. As far as my friend could tell, Bradley shook the hand of every person in the line and offered the same words to each of them: “Thanks for coming out for Coach.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor