By Casey Wiley
This past sunny, crisp Sunday December morning, walking in downtown Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, the town in which I live and the town in which today, Tuesday, December 13, Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State University, waved a preliminary hearing on multiple counts of child sexual assault allegations, a hot restlessness returned to my chest. I took a seat on a bench in front of the court house. I watched two horse-drawn buggies parading bundled children and camera-wielding adults through the town on a hill. A handful of people sauntered by dressed for some reason as characters from “A Christmas Carol.” Mrs. Fezziwig waved excitedly. It took me a moment, but I realized she was waving at me. I waved back, but it was too late; the group was already crossing the street.
Over 1,300 people applied for 100-something seats in Courtroom One. At least six accusers were slated to testify against Sandusky. The case will now proceed to Common Pleas court. One accuser — a man now, but a boy then — testified before a grand jury that he had screamed and screamed from Sandusky’s basement.
This awful scandal lingers thick like a terrible, unremitting pain, like that scream on repeat, louder each time. No, any simile here just sounds silly. As a lecturer in Penn State’s English Department I’ve talked extensively with my shaken students. More personally, I’ve started writing about the scandal. Scrawls in the margin of my class notes. A series of questions. I feel then like I have exercised some control over the distorted environment around me, in me.
Late evening Wednesday night, November 9, my cell phone buzzed on the bedside table. A friend’s text read that I would soon have a new boss. Letting my wife of one month sleep, I slipped out of bed knowing full well that Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno, President and Head football coach, respectively, of Penn State University were no longer employed by the University. On my computer in the darkness of our office I watched trustee John Surma’s press conference. Someone was yelling from the audience of media members. Surma didn’t flinch. As I refreshed tweets from the university’s undergraduate newspaper reporters while scanning tedious YouTube clips of morphing clusters of shadowed students gathering around Old Main on campus and starting to tickle downtown, a growing anxiety built steadily in me for this collected group, which, I assumed, contained some of the students I would see the next day at 8 a.m. for their composition class.
A tweet from “Onward State,” a student-run news organization: “The sound of police sirens and car horns, and the sight of students pouring out of apartments. Headed to a riot.”
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