It was a strange scene in State College, Pa., just after dawn Sunday. Police and construction vehicles arrived almost simultaneously, barricading the sidewalks and streets near the statue of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
Workers erected a chain-link fence and then concealed the 7-foot-tall statue with a blue tarp. While approximately 150 students and onlookers chanted "We are Penn State," the workers used jackhammers to free the statue and a forklift to place it onto a flat-bed truck that was driven into a stadium garage.
The university announced Sunday that it had decided to remove the statue following an investigative report that found the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators covered up sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, sometimes on Penn State's campus.
Penn State president Rod Erickson said he decided to have the monument taken down and placed into storage because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing" and would be "a recurring wound" to victims of child abuse had it stayed.
Earlier the Paterno family released a statement saying the statue's removal "does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky's horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community."
The family has vowed its own investigation, and called the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, the "incomplete and unofficial" equivalent of a charging document by a prosecutor and said the only way to help the victims "is to uncover the truth."
"It is not the University's responsibility to defend or protect Joe Paterno," the statement said. "But they at least should have acknowledged that important legal cases are still pending and that the record on Joe Paterno, the board and other key players is far from complete."
The statue weighs more than 900 pounds and was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching win and his "contributions to the university."
Some who came to witness the statue's removal were angry that it was done with such little notice that many people missed it. Others are concerned that harsh sanctions from the NCAA would harm the innocent and could destroy businesses that depend on the commerce from the tens of thousands who stream into State College on game days.
Many people left notes or flowers at the temporary chain-link fence that kept people a short distance away.
One note said: "They may erase you from this site, but never from our hearts."