Remembering The Victims At Penn State

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I would say a picture says a thousand words, but in this case there are a million words that need to be said.

In the midst of the darkest week in the 156-year history of Penn State, an estimated 10,000 students, alumni and community members gathered Friday night to illuminate the night on the lawn of Old Main in a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The night was not about Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary, Tim Curley or Gary Schultz; in fact, the aforementioned names were not said once throughout the night. Now that these horrifying events have been exposed, I trust the guilty parties will be punished accordingly and a system that allowed this abuse to happen will be examined.

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Friday night was about exactly who the story should have been about the whole time: the victims.

“We can not let the actions of a few define us…may we fight until no child is harmed again,” said TJ Bard, University Park Undergraduate Association president and one of the speakers at the vigil.

One student spoke of her own personal experiences of being sexually abused and the confusion and heartbreak that the victims have experienced. Another person submitted an anonymous letter to be read aloud, explaining her experiences of being sexually abused as well.

Former-Penn State All-American Linebacker LaVar Arrington passionately spoke about how the biggest crime of all would to be to forget what has happened here and that now is the time to answer the call of duty; now is the time to renew the pride of Penn State.

The Penn State Blue Band performed, but they did not play fight songs. They began the night with a moving, lyrical ballad and ended by playing the introduction to the Penn State Alma Mater. The remainder of the Alma Mater was sung by the crowd of ten thousand, joined arm-in-arm, who felt a sense of unity and pride that has been difficult to find in Happy Valley for the past few days.

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The crowd sang noticeably louder when it reached the line in the Alma Mater that reads, “May no act of ours bring shame.”

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(Video courtesy of The Daily Collegian)

Other student musical groups performed, but they did not do renditions of songs that are topping the charts as they would in concert; they performed songs such as “Imagine,” by John Lennon and “Fix You,” by Coldplay. The crowd sang along with the groups for both songs.

A moment of silence followed the speakers as the clock struck ten. Silence was to be maintained until the tenth toll of the Old Main belltower.

I am almost halfway through my second year here at Penn State. I have been to just about any event that you can think of that warrants Penn State pride. I can honestly say the “WE ARE…PENN STATE!” cheer that concluded the candlelight vigil last night was the most powerful one I have ever heard.

I cannot describe the feelings that rushed through my body as I turned around at the end of the night and saw the turnout that I did:

I was awed by the sheer number of people and amount of support this school brought for the victims of these terrible crimes.

I was inspired to begin this new era and pick up the fight against child abuse that TJ Bard had talked about, knowing that so many students felt the same way.

I was once again engulfed by the feeling of family that is so prevalent at Penn State, but in a way I had never felt it before.

I was AM proud to be a Penn State student.

Alex Eliasof is a 2010 graduate of Verona High School who currently attends Penn State University.

Penn State logo by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr. Old Main photo by shidairyproduct via Flickr.

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