A Big Damn Hero
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'd planned to write something here about strong women characters, and I guess I'll do that later in the week, but instead today I decided to blog about Liviu Librescu.

Liviu Librescu was, by all accounts, a talented engineer, a gifted educator and a brilliant scientific writer. Unfortunately, these great achievements are likely to be eclipsed by his death, because Liviu Librescu is one of the 32 people who were murdered at Virginia Tech early yesterday morning.

I don't know the guy. I never met him. I don't know anyone who was taught by him and I don't know squat about engineering. I'd never even heard of Liviu Librescu until I came across his name on a news website, even though he was apparently the most published lecturer in one of America's most prestigious universities. The main reason I'm mentioning him in my blog is that I came across the story of his life, and found out that Librescu had already lived through an even more horrendous tragedy.

Liviu Librescu was a holocaust survivor.

Liviu Librescu was born in Romania in 1931. When Romania fell under nazi control, he and his family were interred in a ghetto in the city of Foscani. More than 280,000 Jews died in Romania alone during the awful days of the Second World War, but Librescu survived.

After the war, he became an engineer and had a successful career with Romania's aerospace agency. But he refused to swear allegiance to the communist regime and was fired when he asked permission to move to Israel. It took years for him to obtain permission to leave the country, but he and his family finally emigrated to Israel in 1978.

Librescu came to Virginia Tech on a sabbatical year, and wound up lecturing at the university for more than twenty years. I doubt he ever expected to hear gunshots again, especially not in the university department in which he had received so much acclaim. But when he did hear gunfire that morning he didn't panic. Instead, the 76 year old man barricaded the door of his classroom, blocking it with his own body, and ordered his students to open the windows and jump to safety. And that was how he died.

Although I was saddened to hear of the terrible tragedy in Virginia Tech, I never expected to blog about it. After all, no one I know was touched by what happened, and I'm grateful for that. But when I stumbled across the story of Liviu Librescu I just had to write about him. Just to make sure others knew the story. So that maybe they could tell more people again. Because in one lifetime Liviu Librescu saw the very worst that humanity had to offer, and somehow he still found the courage to die showing us the best.

Magnified and sanctified be the great name of God throughout the world which He hath created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during the days of your life and during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily, yea, soon; and say ye, Amen.

Mourner's Kaddish


Tuesday, April 24, 2007 2:13 PM


Oh.... this gives this a depth of reality I have yet to be able to feel. Wow. (Did that sound hollow? It's not. It's awe. In the older sense of the word. Proper awe. Respect.) DTH... you... this is the sort of thing that the news neglects to mention.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 5:09 AM


The more I get to know you, the more I get to like you, DTH. Thank you for such a heartfelt and articulate post. I am sure Dr. Librescu is smiling at your words.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 1:34 PM


As a university student and as someone who has felt frustration and anger at the kind of people (fellow students, lecturers, etc.) the Virginia Tech gunman targeted, this whole situation just makes me wonder if something could happen where I go to school.

However, what really makes me feel all kinds of pain from this tragedy is that someone who had already suffered through the oppression of the Nazis and the Communists in his homeland was faced with an eerily similar situation while teaching students in Virginia, though I believe Dr. Librescu freely gave up his life for his students. Makes me wonder at the grand plan of whatever higher power exists when said power asks one of its faithful to once again be tested to be found worthy of entry into the afterlife. Will still honour Dr. Librescu's memory and actions...just wonder at the continued need:(


Tuesday, April 17, 2007 3:00 PM


That is a TRUE hero...
Thank you for writing that for us.
No greater gift can one person give than their own life to save others.
(My partner is a University lecturer here in Oz and this whole horrific tragedy makes me shiver. I thank God our gun laws are stricter.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:56 PM


*is this a bad time to point out that technically I'm one of the mad?*

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:55 PM


Thank you DesktopHippie for posting about this man. Having worked the Columbine high school shootings I cannot help but be sickened and saddened by the massacre at Virginia Tech. The mad are among us - be vigilant.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:14 PM


DTH-thank you..I feel enriched and blessed to know about Liviu and his life.LA repeats the mourners kaddish in hebrew...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 11:58 AM


Heroes. That's all I have to say.

Rob O.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 11:18 AM


Amen; and let these souls lost to us never be forgotten.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007 10:15 AM


My heart goes out to all of the victims.


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