State College–How Will my Hometown be Remembered?
I hadn’t watched the news for more than a week when a Swedish gentleman, who heard me say I was from State College, couldn’t keep himself from telling me the news. He was following the Paterno debacle quite closely and come to find out, other Swedes are too. You would think with everything going on in the world this wouldn’t be a leading story, but it is. I suppose, in part, because it never ends…first the victims and the court case, now the sanctions and the taking down of an icon, not to mention the emails and reports…it goes on and on.
But I have to wonder, if the Swedes are so tuned into this story, does that indicate this tragedy runs deeper in the collective conscious of us all? And why is it that this tragedy is so different from all the other terrible things we hear of happening? My guess is that it’s because the way the events unfolded—the time span, the hiding of the truth by people who were thought to be truthful, the fact that so many victim’s were violated and their families and friends hurt. This case didn’t just indict Sandusky; in a very real way, it indicted an entire university who enabled him. What a frightening reality!
But here’s the thing…I grew up in State College, I went to High School and graduated with Kara Sandusky—a lovely person who is still one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet—so I can understand why this is so confusing for people, why it’s hard to believe that things weren’t the way we thought they were in Happy Valley. The folks in Centre County are understandably having a hard time coming to grips with the reality of Joe Paterno’s statue being removed from the pedestal where his bronze (and he) stood on for so many years.
While none of these sanctions can change what happened, (or unfortunately prevent people from hurting people again), I am glad to see that measures have been taken and a warning, not just in words but in action, has been sounded to every other university and institute of learning—protect the victim. The downside to these sanctions is that they will likely create new victims; the people who live in the community and depend on the university for their business.
It’s a lot to make sense of…a town to lose their hometown hero Paterno along with the “idea” of who we were, and what we stood for. It’s hard to imagine that we could ever recover…and yet, I believe Penn State can come back even stronger if they show what it means to own their mistakes, change and make things better—that means more transparency, truthfulness and honesty. My hope is that someday my hometown will be remembered for more than just this devastating event. That they will be remembered for the way they transformed through this tragedy, changing our generation and maybe…who knows…even people around the world.