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Scene outside Paterno's house one of numbed shock, sadness

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The street was dark. It was quiet and calm. And it was only sad if you understood the enormity of the situation enveloping the 84-year-old man who lives inside this small, one-story home on McKee Street.

But if you didn't know, if you made a wrong turn down this road at this moment, you'd have done nothing more than wonder why the faces of 15 students, with their heads down and arms crossed, looked so distraught at such an odd hour.

What are they mourning, you'd ask?

Penn State fires Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno was fired by Penn State on Wednesday night, brought down by the handling of child sex-abuse allegations against a former assistant coach. **More ...**

Little would you realize that not even the most thorough understanding of this awful and complicated situation could lead you to an answer. Not those repulsive 23 pages of grand jury testimony. Not the dramatic news conference, which had yet to end on the other side of town, that resulted in the firing of a coaching legend.

Here, at Joe Paterno's home, news trucks had not yet arrived. Nor had the throngs of fans who would eventually make their way to this spot.

For now, it was serene and surreal. It was at this moment that Paterno's wife, Susan, came to a front window.

"Just a minute," she said to the small group.

Paterno walked toward the door. He opened it. And in his first comments after he'd been made aware of his firing, even he had yet to fully digest that his 61-year coaching career at Penn State had just come to this terrible conclusion.

"Right now, I'm not the coach, OK?" Paterno said. "You know what I mean? I have to get used to that. After 61 years, I have to get used to that."

What is he mourning, you'd ask?

There is no way to dare dive into the minds of Paterno or any of these students, each of whom wore emotions far different from the group of boisterous, attention-craving looters who flipped a news truck several miles away.

No way to know if they are saddened by the innocent children who were allegedly molested by Jerry Sandusky or saddened by Paterno's unceremonious ousting as a result of his knowledge in at least one of those heinous and disgusting accusations.

One college-aged female, standing with two friends nearly 20 yards from Paterno's house, stood silently when asked what she thought about the board of trustees' decision to fire Paterno. Eventually, she had only four words to say.

"I grew up here," she said, then reverted back to her saddened silence.

Her response did not explain any deep-rooted position about this complicated situation. It did not condemn the university's decision to oust Paterno on a night when thousands of other students made their own emotions very clear.

It was just four words: I grew up here.

If you didn't know better, if you'd made a wrong turn down this road at this moment, you'd have understood little about the meaning of her reply and less about what it meant from an emotional standpoint.

What is she mourning, you'd ask?

On this campus, where this shocking development was absorbed with a different level of unexplainable confusion than anywhere else in the country, the answer to this question doesn't come easy.

What are they mourning? What is he mourning? What is she mourning?

Here's a guess: Each of them, on this street, at this moment, was mourning everything about this awful situation.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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