PHOTOS: State College Falls Silent for Paterno Funeral Procession
January 25, 2012 6:22 PM
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For decades, Joe Paterno could drive people to scream, cheer, put their arms up and bring the house down.

On Wednesday afternoon, he brought them to silence.

Crowds estimated in the tens of thousands filled downtown College Avenue sidewalks and lined University Park roadways as Paterno's funeral procession traveled slowly across campus -- past Beaver Stadium -- and through downtown State College.

It started about 4:15 p.m., just more than an hour behind its expected rough schedule. A 2 p.m. private funeral service, in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, appeared to have run longer than anticipated.

But the delay put no damper on the crowd size, which looked in many places to exceed substantially that of a university homecoming weekend. At College Avenue and Allen Street -- one of the most crowded spots -- people stood well more than a dozen deep along College Avenue's north side as the procession approached.

Led by two police vehicles with their emergency lights -- but no sirens -- on, the procession lasted about 45 minutes en route to a private burial service elsewhere. The hearse -- a blue Cadillac -- carried flowers on its roof.

Mourners along the procession route, already subdued and somber, stopped talking when they noticed the vehicles nearing. Many raised their cameras or mobile devices to snap photos.

Once in a while, someone would cry out in the silence: "We are -- !"

A relative handful would reply: "Penn State!"

When the procession reached Allen Street and College Avenue, someone called out and asked that all parties remove their hats. People obliged.

A number brought signs and posters. One, near Fraser Street and College Avenue, read: "Joe. You've made an impact."

Others crowded balconies and open windows above the street, leaning out and looking down. From time to time, someone would cry out with an exclamation of adoration -- "We love you, Joe" or "Joe, I love you."

Many -- men and women -- wept openly. Some clapped. Some waved goodbye. Some did all three.

Behind the hearse was a dark-blue Penn State football bus -- one that might carry the team to Beaver Stadium on a game day -- polished to a bright shine. Vehicles farther back included a large, long-haul-style bus carrying family members and an assortment of other cars, plus some additional police vehicles.

It took perhaps a couple minutes for all of them to pass any particular point on the procession route.

Once the vehicles passed, mourners spilled into the street and moved along, most still quiet.

The mood remained in the downtown as the sun set and darkness fell.

The man who could make the town yell had left it virtually speechless.

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