Hundreds more mourners lined up outside a Penn State campus spiritual center Wednesday to pay their respects to the late Joe Paterno on the second of three days of mourning for the beloved former football coach.
The line started forming outside the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center in the early hours of the morning, several hours before the doors opened for the closed-casket viewing. But after the emotional tumult many students and alumni have experienced in recent months -- including Paterno's firing in the aftermath of a child sex scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky, followed by the longtime coach's battle with lung cancer -- the wait was worth it.
“His ethics, doing things the right way, excellence in everything you do, all of that attracted me and attracted many others to Penn State,” said Tom Haack, a 59-year-old alumnus who said his admiration for Paterno influenced his decision to attend the university. "I think his influence made it a better school and helped make it what it is today.”
Thousands had gathered Tuesday for the opportunity to walk past the brown hardwood casket placed about 6 feet away from a black-and-white portrait of "JoePa," thick-rimmed glasses and all.
“It's hard to say goodbye to somebody that you feel you've known all along,” said John Whitney, a 21-year-old junior from Sparta, N.J. “A lot of us have never met him, but he's had such a big influence on everybody's life around here.”
Karen Gilchrist, a Penn State fan from Scranton, Pa., brought three of her five children -- ages 7, 8 and 6 months -- to the viewing. “There's going to be no one like him in my lifetime or theirs,” she said. “I wanted them to be part of a historic day. I felt compelled.”
Doors closed on the viewing at 11:30 a.m. EST Wednesday. A private funeral service and burial were to be held later in the day. A public memorial will take place Thursday at Penn State's basketball arena.
-- Chuck Schilken
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Upper photo: Alysha Ulrich, 10, left foreground, from Oley, Pa., waits in line to go through the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State campus for the viewing for former Penn State coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press
Lower photo: Mourners console one another after paying respects to Paterno on Wednesday. Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images