Candles, not police lights, lit Penn State’s campus Friday night as thousands of people gathered to show support for the victims in the university’s child sex abuse scandal, myFOXphilly.com reported Saturday.
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The vigil in front of Penn State’s "Old Main" administration building drew students, alumni and teachers, who observed a moment of silence after the bell tolled at 10:00pm.
The crowd listened to several speakers, including former college All-American linebacker LaVar Arrington, an a cappella group singing "Imagine" and the school marching band.
The vigil was organized by students in the wake of a shocking grand jury report that accused retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of repeatedly sexually assaulting boys, sometimes at university facilities.
The indictment suggested that school officials did not aggressively investigate or report the activity, accusations that ultimately saw the university’s board of trustees dismiss storied coach Joe Paterno.
Friday’s vigil remained largely solemn before ending with an ear-shattering series of "We are … Penn State!"
Those present said the event gave them something to rally around after the shock of Paterno’s departure, which sparked a violent student demonstration on campus Wednesday night.
"Having that taken away from us made us feel lost," junior Leah Blasko, of Pittsburgh, said late Friday. "Tonight really gave us a place to put ourselves back together."
One speaker, 2007 graduate Dustin Yenser, encouraged victims to know that they had the support of the campus despite having been failed by people who he believed had an obligation to protect them. And Arrington urged attendees to use the scandal as a challenge.
"Let it be known that we waged war to make a difference," Arrington told the crowd Friday. "Leave here tonight with a resolve and an understanding that you possess the power to change things."
The seeds of the student-organized vigil began even before the Wednesday night violence.
Penn State senior and organizer Jessica Sever said she read the grand jury report against Sandusky on Monday night and woke up disgusted, feeling as though something needed to be done.
"What I really want to focus on is the victims right now," Sever said. "We really need some positivity, because there is none right here."