UNIVERSITY PARK — Gayle Barnes watched early Sunday as workers wearing hard hats and wielding jackhammers did what once would have been unthinkable.
And as the Joe Paterno statue came down, Barnes’ face, masked with sadness and disbelief, was lost among the others just like it outside Beaver Stadium.
But the State College woman, also known as juror 3 in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial, had a different perspective than the rest.
“lt’s been very difficult,” Barnes said Sunday morning, just after the once-iconic, now controversial statue of the late Penn State football coach was carted away.
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“It’s been hard ever since the trial, ever since we the jurors came to the verdict that Sandusky is guilty.”
Barnes said she’s haunted by the memories of Sandusky’s young victims and their emotional testimony in the trial for the longtime football coordinator, who was convicted of abusing 10 boys.
“I go to bed at night and I end up falling asleep, and I wake up and think about the victims,” she said. “They didn’t need to go through this. It should have been stopped years ago and it wasn’t.”
Despite that belief, Barnes had a hard time watching the scene unfolding Sunday morning.
“JoePa did a lot wonderful things to the university, to the community, to all the players that have gone through, just as individuals,” she said. “Yes, he’s done wrong, but I don’t think we know everything.”
Barnes questioned the timing of the university’s decision to remove the statue, calling it “another knee jerk” reaction.
“I just feel sick — absolutely sick about this,” she said. “They are taking something down too fast. It’s time that we need. A statue is not going to help by coming down.”
Her husband of 40 years, Steve Barnes, criticized Penn State for taking down the statue at dawn without any prior announcement or a news conference. Sunday’s removal, he said, was “not a good way to do it.”
“I feel like we were let down,” he said. “I’m not going to say we were lied to, but I feel a bit betrayed.”
For the couple, Sunday was another difficult trip to the Penn State campus, where Gayle Barnes had a panic attack during the June trial.
Barnes has been seeking help to deal with emotions that grew out of control during the two-week trial.
“We weren’t allowed to talk to each other about the trial, so it just built up and built up,” she said. “I’d come home at night and couldn’t talk to anybody either.”
Steve Barnes remembers feeling powerless to help.
“I could see the pain on her face from what she was experiencing, but I couldn’t talk to her about it,” he said.
To relieve her stress one night, the couple took a walk around campus. Then, she recalled, anxiety suddenly struck: “I was walking around and all of a sudden I said to my husband, ‘I need to get out of here, I’m having a panic attack.’
“All I could see, I went by one building, the swimming pool, and in my mind, what did I see but those victims and Sandusky,” she said. “I just had to get out.”
Steve Barnes said they then walked across campus to the soothing paths of the Arboretum at Penn State so she could calm down. He said she was willing to fulfill her civic responsibility as a juror, but the experience “took a tremendous toll on her from a psychological standpoint.”
“She felt the jury did a good job,” he said. “She felt justice was done. She had absolutely no doubt about Jerry Sandusky’s guilt, but the collateral damage has been incredible.”
Gayle Barnes, who worries about the damage done to Sandusky’s victims, suggested Sunday the university should provide an education for the young men.
“I think the university should go to each one of those victims and say, ‘If we can give you an education, whether graduate, undergraduate, law degree, (then) anything at all,’ ” she said. “Unfortunately some of those victims might not be able to get an education.”
Barnes and her husband, a doctor, themselves have close ties to Penn State. His mother was a graduate, and they have been season ticket holders since 1976.
Steve Barnes went to Penn State’s medical school, graduating a year after interim Penn State Athletic Director David Joyner. The Barneses attended Mike McQueary’s wedding, and he was a guest when their daughter married.
Now, Gayle Barnes wonders how to explain to her grandchildren why the Paterno statue, revered in her family, is gone.
“Our kids came to the football games when they were this little,” Barnes said, motioning to her knees. “We taught them, ‘This is how you do it, this is how you play football.’ I just feel like that’s lost, that’s gone.”
Matt Carroll can be reached 231-4631. Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620.