When I was 16 a Taco Bell opened in my neighborhood and, because I was a teenage vegetarian, it changed my life. Taco Bell was a place I could afford to eat with my meager allowance, allowing me to hang out with both my vegetarian and meat-eating friends at a cost no higher than pocket change. When I returned from my first year of college, the Taco Bell was gone, replaced by a Quiznos. My heart was broken into a million pieces. Any person who has gone through the seven stages of grief over a Taco Bell understands the despair felt by the student body of Penn State right now: They have lost their beloved Bell with no explanation whatsoever. But in the true spirit of community, total strangers banded together to throw a candlelight vigil for what they had lost, to see each other through a dark, hopeless time with no big, beefy Double Cheesy Gordita Crunches to shove in their mouths to kill the pain.
On Sunday night, students and members of the greater State College, Pennsylvania community gathered in front of their shuttered Taco Bell to pay their final respects to a local institution. The event was organized on Facebook by Penn State University senior Prajesh Patel, who promised that there would be “special appearances by the Nittanyville trophy and Taco Bell staff” and who, according to student newspaper The Collegian, led the vigil through its moments of grief and reflection while dressed as a giant taco.
“We were all shooketh after hearing about the closing of this beautiful, beautiful State College establishment,” preached Patel to the crowd of mourners. “Taco Bell was our home away from home, and added spice to our life.”
As speakers blared songs like “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth and “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, students held up signs that read “Live Mas forever” and “4Ever in our hearts, Taco Bell,” and shared their treasured memories.
“Legends were made at this Taco Bell, you gotta come to pay your respects,” said psychology major DJ Krausz.
As promised by the Facebook event page, the vigil was attended by multiple former Taco Bell employees, who were genuinely touched by the public displays of affection.
“It was saddening to me, I know I’m going to miss all of the college students even though it did get crazy on those Friday and Saturday nights,” said Juliana Windhorst, who worked at the location for over a year. “But it was heartwarming to me to see all these people here, knowing that they actually loved the store, and that they actually cared.”