Senior year was supposed to be some awesome idyllic experience, replete with lazy Sundays, four-day weekends, and frivolity. Instead, I think many seniors will agree with me when I say that this has been the most trying year of our young lives. Never before have we had to question the institution we love so intensely. November was an especially trying month. Events led to frustration with the Administration, the Board of Trustees, fellow students, and the national media.
This week, events of a different sort provoked different emotions. Saturday night, I went to see Atlas Sound in the HUB, knowing that Joe Paterno’s health was declining. Onward State had made some ripples nationally for tweeting details about his health situation. Our site had been down due to traffic. At Atlas Sound, as my iPhone battery declined, I read the conversation on Yammer that preceded our now infamous decision to tweet that Joe Paterno had passed away. As I saw the tweet go out, my heart sank. It was all over. The institution that Penn Staters had come to love for more than 50 years was gone. As the music filled Heritage Hall, tears welled up in my eyes. Then, my phone died.
About five minutes later, my friend Ethan showed me his twitter feed. Coach Paterno had not, in fact, passed away. A different feeling then overcame me. I was freaking out and panicking. The blog had fumbled perhaps the most important Penn State story in the University’s past and foreseeable future. By this time, our initial tweet had been magnified thousands of times over by outlets like CBS Sports and the Huffington Post. Initially, these reports were unattributed, but as the truth came out, Onward State’s name came out. As I stood there watching Atlas Sound, the gears of the Onward State editorial operation kicked in. After a time, Ethan gave me his phone again to read an apology from then-Managing Editor Devon Edwards.
In a missive so well-written, so brutally honest and without caveat, that I teared up for the second time that night, Devon accepted full responsibility for our error and resigned as Managing Editor. As our initial erroneous report flooded across the internet, Devon’s apology and Davis’ transparent explanation of what exactly transpired did as well, earning OS plaudits that did not do much to make up for the trust lost on Saturday night, but were slight consolation for all involved. At one point that night, Onward State was trending on Twitter.
As I woke up Sunday morning hungover from drinking my sorrows away at Cafe the night before, I checked my tweets at 9am and slept for another hour and a half. When I woke up, I read on Twitter that JoePa was gone.
The past week has been filled with eulogies, many by people that never met the man. As Babe Ruth is to Yankee Stadium, Joe Paterno is to Beaver Stadium, perhaps even more so. He was a man whose deeds affected people many orders of magnitude removed. As alumni and other mourners streamed in to State College to pay their respects, I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t stand in line to go to the viewing in Pasquerilla, but I found myself on College and Allen by the Kunkle Lounge watching JoePa’s funeral train ride out of town. I didn’t get tickets to yesterday’s memorial service. I didn’t even try. Joe would have wanted me to be in class. Last night, I watched the memorial and it was incredibly touching. It gave me closure about Onward State’s conduct and the entire situation.
This isn’t the senior year any of us imagined. This isn’t the senior year any of us prepared for. This isn’t the senior year any of us wanted. But here we are, rising to the occasion, showing a maturity those in their mid-20s aren’t often known for. As Penn State moves on without JoePa, we will continue to embody his values. Success with Honor will not be going anywhere. Remember, we can all be the next Joe Paterno.