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One Year Later: We Still Are Penn State

On the One Year Anniversary of one of the darkest days in Penn State history, Dan Vecellio takes a look at just how far we've come, and what that harrowing day was like for Penn Staters.

Mario Tama

Author's Note: The opinions expressed here are my own and may not be shared by the entire BSD staff. Also, I apologize in advance for my many jumbled thoughts turning into points of rambling near the end of this post.


I can still see the large green lights of my alarm clock depicting the time I woke up on the morning of November 5, 2011. Behind it, I can see the sun pouring into the bedroom of my Tallahassee apartment.

That Saturday was supposed to be a work day. The Nittany Lions had a bye, I really wasn't into Florida State football vehemently enough to care about whatever they were doing that day and I had yet to start my term project on hurricane development. I grabbed a bowl of cereal and turned on College GameDay just in time to see a breaking news report on Jerry Sandusky being charged as well as administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley.

The hurricane paper never got done.

I read the grand jury report that morning. From then on, the consumption began, just like it did for most of you, I would guess. It ate away at every bit of my life. Saturday and Sunday were eventually spent on BSD and Onward State and the Daily Collegian and ESPN. The divide had already begun minutes into the announcement of the charges. It continued throughout the week where I was physically but certainly not mentally in all of my classes. I wrote a story early Wednesday for my former site Onward State detailing the media misconceptions that had already been blown out of proportion three days into the debacle. It was later posted by the Huffington Post two hours later.

The rest of that night was spent fighting off tears, unsuccessfully, as I saw one of my childhood idols being fired, watched as the streets of my second home becoming a cesspool of ill-tempered students who probably should have thought twice about the message they were sending to the rest of the world and lost faith in humanity as a whole as my inbox and Twitter mentions filled up with responses to my story, most negative with words directed at me not suitable for publishing on this site.

Friday night brought a yearning of want, a want to get back to State College as I see thousands of my former classmates pull a complete one-eighty from their actions two nights before as they stood with candles outside of Old Main to support the victims of the children whose lives had been forever changed for the worse by the direct actions of one man as well as the indiscretions by others who had the opportunity to make sure it never happened. The same feelings surfaced on Saturday as I sat in a bar with the Penn State Alumni Association chapter in Tallahassee and watched a sea of blue fall silent as both Penn State and Nebraska players knelt and prayed at mid-field before a football game, a game which for better or worse, brought fans three hours of normalcy.

Weeks went by. I left Florida State, partly due to the situation going on at home and the focus I could no longer put on my studies. I came to State College and watch in horror as the Paterno death announcement blew up in the face of the publication I wrote for as a student. I eventually took over said outlet as I'm not doing anything else while I waited to see if I can get back into graduate school. I lost the girl that I figured the rest of my life would be spent because, as I said, the consumption of this story just became too much.

I could go on for awhile. I'm sure many of you could go on for longer. It's been a long, trying, expletive-wrought year for many Penn Staters.

This post is not meant to be about me or my troubles. It's meant to serve as a proxy for how I, how we, all have survived the past year.

We've survived because of each other.

The slandering of our university, the death of our hero, both in reputation and physical being, the sentence of Jerry Sandusky but the new chapters of conspiracy the Freeh Report opened up afterwards, the sanctioning of the young men and the new leader we support for carrying the public flag of Dear Old State -- we've gotten through it together because of our love for this school, this community, and one another.

Obviously, I'm not naive enough to think that while we hold this one huge bond, there aren't splits and divisions. And I'm not naive enough to believe that we will all ever see eye-to-eye on how this university should move into the future. I've called people out as crazed vigilantes and have been called out as an Erickson kool-aid drinker. This post isn't meant to stir up the debates on either side of the view points of institutional hierarchy.

We can all take pride in some of the men and women who are now the face of this university and are hellbent on setting the public image straight, whether it needs to be or not. Bill O'Brien and Pat Chambers and Coquese Washington and all those who went on the caravan this summer to speak to alumni like you and I as representation for you and I. There are student leaders who have taken it upon themselves, in student government and outreach and charity efforts, et cetera, to show the world what the student body is all about and how the culture is not what people want to believe it is.

We'll never know everything that happened in this case. We, as individuals or even as grassroots groups, may never be able to change how governance will work or how transparent they should become. We still have to watch three more trials run their course, as they should, so all can pay the piper or be exonerated by the truth. Either way, we're not out of the woods. But as the strongest student and alumni base in the world, we can make sure that pride in our university will never waiver and we can all go out into our daily lives and make sure people know all the great things we are about.

I'm not really sure how to end this. I don't know if it should be a thank you to those who have helped throughout the last year. I don't know if it should be a message of hope that this year will be better than the last. It probably should be both and so much more.

I guess I just ask that we all look back and remember. Remember those who came before us and the lessons they taught us. Remember the mistakes made and hope they never will be made again. Remember all of those affected and continue to share our prayers with them.

We'll get through this. We always do. Because, we are, we were, we will always be...

Penn State.

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