STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Cloresa Turner drove to central Pennsylvania from Virginia to see the statue of veteran Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

When she arrived in State College on Sunday and saw that it was gone from its place outside the university stadium, she clasped her hand over her mouth.

"He's done so much for this university. It's sad," said Turner, of Martinsville, Va. "To wipe it all away is like he meant nothing."

Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence and then concealing the 7-foot-tall statue with a blue tarp. Workers used jackhammers to free the statue and a forklift to lower it onto a flat-bed truck that rolled into a stadium garage bay as some of the 100 to 150 students and other onlookers chanted, "We are Penn State."

The university announced Sunday that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found that the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys, sometimes on Penn State's campus. The NCAA, meanwhile, announced that it would levy "corrective and punitive measures" on Monday.

Penn State President Rod Erickson said he decided to have the statue removed and put 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 remained.

The statue had become such a lightning rod for public opinion amid the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State that even President Barack Obama weighed in. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told Washington reporters Sunday afternoon that Obama believed "it was the right decision" for the university to remove the monument.

Earlier, the Paterno family issued 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, which has vowed its own investigation, 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 full 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."

Paterno's widow, Sue, and two of the Paternos' children visited the statue Friday as students and fans lined up to get their pictures taken with the landmark. The statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was built in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."

Some who came out to watch the statue's removal were angry that it had been done with so little notice that many missed it – "It was under cloak of darkness," said Diane Byerly, 63, of Harrisburg – and worried that stiff sanctions from the NCAA would punish the innocent while possibly destroying businesses that rely on the commerce from the tens of thousands who flood State College on game days.

"I think there's ways you can punish the parties involved without affecting all of State College," said Richard Hill, a 1967 graduate from West Chester.

Chris Stathes, 40, a lifelong Penn State football fan who has a daughter at the school and manages two State College breakfast eateries, said shutting down the program would devastate area businesses.

"Football season, that's our moment. From the time we open our doors in the morning until kickoff, there's a line out the door," he said.

Philip Frum, 24, who works on research projects for Penn State, said he hoped the statue would be erected elsewhere, such as at a nearby Penn State sports museum.

"This statue was a symbol of all the good things he's done for the university," Frum said. Any NCAA penalty that shuts down the football program "will be just as bad as taking down the statue," he said.

By late afternoon, people continued to stream in to see the site, several leaving flowers or notes at the temporary chain-link fencing that kept people a short distance away. One note said: "They may erase you from this site, but never from our hearts." Another read, "WE ARE always going to remember," a play on the school's call-and-response cheer, "We are ... Penn State."

The university president said Paterno's name will remain on the campus library because it "symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University."

The statue's sculptor, Angelo Di Maria, said he felt like a part of him was being taken down with it.

"When things quiet down, if they do quiet down, I hope they don't remove it permanently or destroy it," Di Maria said. "His legacy should not be completely obliterated and thrown out. ... He was a good man. It wasn't that he was an evil person. He made a mistake."

___

Associated Press writers Ron Todt in Philadelphia and Julie Pace in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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  • Workers handle the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno before removing the statue Sunday, July 22, 2012, in State College, Pa. The famed statue of Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant. (AP Photo/John Beale)

  • State College and Penn State University police form a line in front of Beaver Stadium moments after the statue of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was removed Sunday, July 22, 2012, in State College, Pa. The famed statue of Paterno was taken down from outside the Penn State football stadium Sunday, eliminating a key piece of the iconography surrounding the once-sainted football coach accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against a retired assistant. (AP Photo/John Beale)

  • FILE - The statue of former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno stands outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., in this July 13, 2012 file photo. Police and construction workers have barricaded both sides of street and the sidewalks near the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State University Sunday July 22, 2012. A chain-link fence has been erected around the perimeter surrounding the statue.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

  • FILE - A statue of former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno stands outside Beaver Stadium on in this July 12, 2012 file photo. Police and construction workers have barricaded both sides of street and the sidewalks near the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State University. A chain-link fence has been erected around the perimeter surrounding the statue. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

  • Signs of support are displayed at the base of the statue of Joe Paterno located outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday, July 20, 2012. Paterno's statue stands outside the stadium even as his reputation has swiftly fallen following a scathing special investigative report that found he helped cover up child sex abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. (AP Photo/John Beale)

  • Jenni Kahler

    Jenni Kahler, right, holds her daughter, Emma, 4, as they have a photo taken with the statue of Joe Paterno located outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday July 20, 2012. Paterno's statue stands outside the stadium even as his reputation has swiftly fallen following a scathing special investigative report that found he helped cover up child sex abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. (AP Photo/John Beale)

  • Fans wait to have a photo taken with the statue of Joe Paterno located outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday July 20, 2012. Paterno's statue stands outside the stadium even as his reputation has swiftly fallen following a scathing special investigative report that found he helped cover up child sex abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. (AP Photo/John Beale)

  • Kim Ranck touches the arm on the Joe Paterno statue as she walks away in tears Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Ranck, a 2006 Penn State University graduate and current Penn State employee, was out of town when the controversy surrounding the statue broke and came to visit before something happened to it. The Joe Paterno statue, on the Penn State campus, in State College, Pa., has become a highly debated topic since the release of the Louis Freeh report. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • A plane flying the Penn State University campus in State College, pulls a banner reading "Take the statue down or we will" on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. The Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium has been a point of much contention. Critics have called for the statue to be taken down after the Freeh report concluded that Paterno was aware of a 1998 allegations against Sandusky _ in contrast to his grand jury testimony and an interview given after his firing _ and that he was involved in the decision to not report a 2001 incident to the authorities even after his superiors had decided to. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark) MAGS OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Signs and flowers lie at the foot of a statue of former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday, July 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • Megan Toth

    Megan Toth of State College, Pa., climbs on a statue of former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Friday, July 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • A young boy places a yellow rose at the foot of a statue of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., Thursday, July 12, 2012. After an eight-month inquiry, former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Paterno and other top Penn State officials hushed up child sex abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for more than a decade for fear of bad publicity, allowing Sandusky to prey on other youngsters. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • Gina DiJohnson

    Gina DiJohnson, who will graduate from Penn State University in three weeks, poses for a picture with a statue of former Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus Wednesday, July 11, 2012. The Freeh Report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal at Penn State will be released Thursday morning. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)