UNIVERSITY PARK - Thousands of people lined streets Wednesday as Joe Paterno's private funeral Mass was under way.
Two news helicopters flew above the streets of State College and Penn State University to capture an aerial view of the funeral procession for the coach who, to his fans, left a monumental legacy. People stood quietly waiting, craning their necks to see over the crowd.
It was so quiet that a whisper could be heard.
Sentinel photo by CHRIS McFARLAND
A tribute message to Joe Paterno is displayed on top of a taxi.
Sentinel photo by CHRIS McFARLAND
A group of people hold up a sign at the corner of Curtin and Porter roads as they wait for the funeral procession for former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno to begin Wednesday in University Park.
"I still can't believe it's Joe Paterno in there," Penn State junior Katie Kolanda said to her friend standing outside of the university's Pasquerilla Spiritual Center.
Paterno, 85, the winningest coach in major college football history, died Sunday.
People inside the spiritual center for the Mass included Mike McQueary, the assistant football coach who reported to Paterno in 2002 that he had allegedly seen former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a child in a shower in the Penn State football building.
Paterno, in turn, reported the incident to his superiors, a grand jury report stated, but was dismissed in November by the university's Board of Trustees for not calling police. Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 days after he was fired.
Pall bearers loaded Paterno's casket into a blue hearse, and about 200 people emptied the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. Paterno's family regularly attends Mass at the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center just a block from the Pasquerilla Center.
The motorcade consisted of 11 vehicles: the hearse carrying Paterno's casket; five cars whose occupants included Catholic priests and former Penn State players, including Franco Harris; two police cars; and two buses and one van for Paterno's family.
The procession left the Pasquerilla Center, turned left onto Curtin Road to drive past Beaver Stadium, then turned right onto Porter Road and right again onto College Avenue, heading west through downtown State College to a private burial service.
As the motorcade turned onto Curtin Road, students watched from windows of the five-story Pattee and Paterno libraries, a tangible sign of the coach's charitable impact on the Penn State community.
The motorcade proceeded to College Avenue, where Liz Reichlin, a 1990 Penn State graduate, waited with her grandchildren, Jaylen Reichlin, 6, and Micah Reichlin, 4.
"This is history in the making for them," Reichlin said. "They are part of a whole new generation of Penn State - created by a knee-jerk decision by the Board of Trustees."
Trustees learned of the grand jury report Nov. 4 stating that Paterno knew of Sandusky's alleged crimes through McQueary, and ended Paterno's 61-year university career five days later.
"It is a sad day," Reichlin said. "(Paterno) has been sick for a while, but this must have worsened his health."
Reichlin prepared her grandchildren to wave to Paterno's family as the motorcade approached.
"Here come all of the people who love Joe Paterno," Reichlin said to her grandchildren.
"There are his grandchildren," she said to Jaylen as a bus slowly drove past.
A boy no older than Jaylen looked out of the bus' windows, and pressed his hand against the tinted glass to wave to the people showing support for his grandfather.
Paterno had always waved to his fans, including April Schenk, who flew from Gurnee, Ill., to State College to pay respects to Paterno.
After Penn State's Oct. 22 game at Northwestern, Schenk waited with her brother to see Paterno walk out of the stadium after Paterno's team defeated Northwestern 34-32.
That away game was Paterno's 408th career win, tying him with Eddie Robinson as winningest coach in Division I college football history.
"We waited for a long time for him to come out, and I saw the players come out of the stadium, but not Joe Paterno," Schenk said. "Then, as I was leaving, I saw him. He got on the bus, sat in the front row, and I waved to him. I didn't want to leave when he waved back - that was my little moment."
Paterno's funeral procession lasted an hour from about 4 to 5 p.m. Paterno's faithful fans waited for an hour longer than they expected for the procession to start.
Among the crowd of young and old - dressed in everything from suits, trench coats and tousle caps to sweatshirts and sneakers - waiting to see Paterno's funeral procession was Lita Sax, 79, of State College.
"Me and my husband met here as Penn State freshmen. We weren't friends with Paterno, but we knew him from seeing him around the local community," said Sax, a 1955 graduate.
When Paterno's casket was loaded into the hearse, people silently held up their cellphone cameras. There was no flash photography. Some people's eyes teared as Paterno's hearse passed with his family close behind.
Fans including season ticket holder Bill Nichols, 81, a 1952 Penn State graduate, have many fond memories of Paterno.
"I've been to 22 bowl games, and I haven't missed a home game since 1959," Nichols said.
Nichols added that Paterno always greeted people with "hello," and often didn't need police to escort him places.
Schenk agreed with Nichols' characterization of Paterno.
"His status wasn't celebrity. It was respect - respect for his integrity, how he raised his family. And the love story he had with his wife is to be admired," Schenk said.
People have placed numerous tribute items under Paterno's statue outside of Beaver Stadium since the coach's death, and Schenk leaned carefully over a pile of items to attach white angel wings to Paterno's statue Wednesday morning prior to the funeral procession.
"The outpouring of gifts and items has been amazing," university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said. "We intend to gather up the items that can be salvaged and which have not been damaged by the weather and consult with the family. We will follow their wishes."
A public service called "A Memorial to Joe" is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. today at Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State main campus. Tickets to get into the arena were snatched up in 7 minutes Tuesday. The event will be broadcast live on a number of local and national media outlets for those who cannot attend.