Said a tearful Victim 5, who was 13 in 2001 when Sandusky took him into a Penn State shower room and forced him to touch the ex-coach, “I am troubled with flashbacks of his naked body, something that will never be erased from my memory.”
On the way to the hotel Monday night I drove through campus, not for any particular reason other than I had never visited Penn State. Trying to find University Drive, it was after 10:30 when I looked to my left and saw a sign, “The Mildred Lasch Memorial Football Building.”
That’s it, that’s where he brought the kids, I thought. I pulled into the lot where two other cars were parked. I walked up to the mammoth front of a glass façade. It was unlocked. No guard manned the front desk, so I looked around the lobby at the memorabilia — the encased Fiesta Bowl trophy from the last national championship season in 1986, the giant “We Are Penn State” declarations. But no Paterno. Gone. Cut out, like an ex from a family photo.
I walked down a long corridor. Finally, I saw a sign that read “Locker room.” I opened the door, began to walk inside the players’ sanctuary, the place where Sandusky undressed and showered with some of those boys.
Yeah, I felt intrusive, queasy, maybe a little somber. But the most powerful emotion was this adrenaline rush of knowing I was getting away with something, like a child who rings his neighbor’s doorbell and runs — someone who knows he’s crossing normal societal boundaries but does it anyway.
I kept waiting for someone to appear, tell me to get out. But no one came.
It was then I had this disturbing thought, that after everything that’s happened, how sadly easy it must have been for Jerry Sandusky to harm those children.
You sit here composing a story in a place called Happy Valley and the anger becomes more palpable, more personal. That a man hiding under the Penn State football umbrella was allowed to run his charity as a victim factory — grooming at-risk boys with games, gifts and attention — is unconscionable, beyond tragic.
How dare they let this happen knowing what they knew, let this sick man do what he did and not have him incarcerated years ago. How dare people called “leaders of men” not stand up for those kids.
For Sandusky, it ends today. He goes away — for life. But for others, it’s just beginning.
“He’s broken,” said Benjamin Andreozzi, the lawyer for Victim 4, describing his client’s emotional state. “Right now, it’s a matter of trying to put the pieces back together. He’s in counseling. We hope he’ll continue with counseling.”
“He wanted to be able to confront Sandusky,” Andreozzi added. “He wanted to be able to read his statement in open court. Even more so, he looked at Sandusky. He looked angry. He looked in Sandusky’s eyes.”
And in those eyes he saw the vacant soul of a tired, old man who could harm him no more.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.