Remembering a Virginia Tech Hero: Liviu Librescu


Reprinted from April 18, 2007 in remembrance on the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings.

By now, you may have heard of Liviu Librescu, the Virginia Tech professor who was killed as he barricaded the door to give his students time to jump out the second story window of his classroom:

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

A courageous end for this Holocaust survivor who died on Holocaust Remembrance day.

But there's more to Liviu Librescu's story, one that shows his brave act to save his students' lives on Monday was as in character for the professor as the suit and tie he wore everyday to school.

From the NYT article:

When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, the young Librescu was interned in a labor camp, and then sent along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a central ghetto in the city of Focsani, his son said. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews were killed by the collaborationist regime during the war.

Librescu, who was 76 when he died, later found work at a government aerospace company. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the Communist regime, his son said, and he was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.

Librescu obtained his degree in mechanical engineering and aviation construction in 1953 from Polytechnic University in Bucharest. He went on to earn his doctorate from the Bucharest-based Academy of Sciences in 1969, and an honorary degree from the Bucharest Polytechnic University in 2000.

His wife, Marlena, at his NY memorial today:

"He was a very human person who wanted to help everybody. He was a hard man also, he wanted everybody to be 100% and he asked from himself this also. He worked very hard, from morning to midnight, he was very anxious to make new discoveries. He was not a young person, but he was so very young."

Marlena Librescu.

Librescu immigrated to Israel where he taught at Tel Aviv University and worked on aeronautical engineering innovations. He first arrived at Virginia Tech on sabbatical in 1985 and stayed on as a teacher and researcher, which included work with NASA, hundreds of published papers and numerous awards...