Yep. That's me. 18 years ago I was a freshman at Penn State University. I absolutely loved my time at Penn State and have always carried a sense of pride, as most people do, thinking about the diploma I earned from my alma mater. I love to start or finish the cheer "WE ARE ... PENN STATE" and I bleed "blue and white."
For that reason, the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked my university has also shaken my personal world. I was an athletic training major at Penn State. I worked briefly with the football team. I walked around the same locker room that Jerry Sandusky allegedly sexually abused children. I walked the same hallways as Joe Paterno and would occasionally walk passed him. Mike McQueary was the quarterback of the Nittany Lions while I was there. And, although I really had no personal relationship with any of those people, the measure of respect I had for them was very high.
It's hard to describe how people at Penn State viewed Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno. "Joe Pa" was the moral compass of our campus ... the all-time winningest coach in college football but a coach who always put the athlete ahead of the program ... a coach who did things the "right way" and had more than just athletic standards for those on his team ... a man who donated millions to the university and lived in a very humble home outside of campus ... a grandfatherly figure full of wisdom and integrity.
And, Jerry Sandusky, although not on the same level as "Joe Pa," was still a legend on campus. He was the man who coached some of the best defenses in the country during his tenure as defensive coordinator and was described as the type of neighbor you'd like to have because of his kindness and generosity.
So, when the news broke, it's difficult to describe how I felt. The best way I can describe it is to say that it felt like one of my own relatives was involved in this. That's the bond these men had with the graduates of Penn State. It's been a week since all of this has come out and yet I'm still in a state of disbelief ... especially as I hear more and more about the allegations and the fact that people could basically sit by and do nothing after knowing these things were going on. Shocked. Horrified. Angry.
I sit in a position where I work with young people. I've dedicated the past nine and half years of my life to investing in the lives of teenagers. Over the years I've had to make those phone calls to Child Protective Services. It sucks, but I'm going to do what I have a responsibility to do. It's hard for me to understand how, first, someone could sexually abuse a child, and then second how someone could know about it and yet let it slide on by.
I'm still processing it all and have been thinking through what I can learn from this as a youth pastor. I think there are several lessons to be learned and I hope to post that some time soon. But, for now, my heart breaks for the victims. It's one thing to be victimized ... but then to be victimized again by the lack of response by people who seemed to know what was happening ... it literally turns my stomach.