Prof. Liviu Librecu is Now at Peace
From today’s New York Times:
RAANANA, Israel (AP) — A Holocaust survivor gunned down trying to save his students from the Virginia Tech shooting rampage was buried in Israel Friday to the sobs of his grieving family.
Engineering Professor Liviu Librescu’s body was wrapped in a prayer shawl according to Jewish tradition, and his two sons intoned the Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead.
A representative of the Romanian government posthumously awarded the Romanian-born Librescu the country’s highest medal for his scientific accomplishments and heroism. Romanian officials laid a wreath at the grave.
“I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father,” his elder son, Joe, said.
Librescu, a 76-year-old aeronautics engineer and lecturer at the school for 20 years, died trying to barricade the door of his Virginia Tech classroom to keep the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, away from his students.
“It’s so painful for me to think of your last moments, in which you suffered. I’ll never know what went through your mind, but I hope very much that wherever you are, you will watch over your family,” Librescu’s weeping wife, Marlena, said.
Librescu’s family said his last moments were recounted in numerous e-mails from students after the attack.
“My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Joe Librescu told The Associated Press after the massacre. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”
As the students jumped, Librescu was shot dead, one of the 32 victims in the worst shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.
A child in Nazi-allied Romania during World War II, Librescu was deported along with his family to a labor camp in Transnistria and then to a central ghetto in the city of Focsani, his son said. According to a report compiled by the Romanian government in 2004, between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were killed by the Romanian regime during the war.
Librescu worked as an engineer at Romania’s aerospace agency under the postwar Communist government, his son recounted, but his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the regime. He was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.
After years of government refusal, according to his son, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family emigration permits. They moved to Israel in 1978.
Shmulik Moyal, 60, a friend and former neighbor of Librescu, described Librescu as a serious, scholarly man.
The family left in 1985 for Virginia, where Librescu took a position teaching mathematics and engineering at Virginia Tech.