Tuesday, April 17, 2007
On this day:

Professor Liviu Librescu, RIP

What an extraordinary man.
(YNetNews) WASHINGTON – Prof Liviu Librescu, a senior researcher and lecturer at Virginia Tech, is among the 32 people who were killed during a shooting rampage at the university Monday. ...

One of Prof Librescu's students, Alec Calhoun, who was with him at the classroom when the shooting started, told AP that at about 9:05 am, he and classmates heard "a thunderous sound from the classroom next door, what sounded like an enormous hammer."

When students realized the sounds were gunshots, Calhoun said, they started flipping over desks for hiding places. Others dashed to the windows of the second-floor classroom, kicking out the screens and jumping from the ledge of the room.

Calhoun said that just before he climbed out the window, he turned to look at the professor (Librescu), who had stayed behind to block the door.

Librescu's wife drove him to work on Monday, and he was killed about an hour later. His daughter-in-law Ayala, who is married to his son, Joe, told Ynet: "I heard he blocked the door of the classroom he was teaching… he must have realized that the murderer was approaching. He saved his students and was killed by gunshots." ...

Prof Librescu and his wife are both Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel from Romania in 1978.

Librescu was an accomplished scientist in Romania, and the Communist regime had tried to prevent him from making aliyah to Israel. He was allowed to leave the country only after the Israeli prime minister at the time Menachem Begin appealed the matter to President Nicolae Ceausescu.

Several years later, Librescu left for a sabbatical in the United States and has remained there since. ...

"I understand from friends that my father was a hero," the son Joe told Ynet. "In fact, by blocking the door with his body he saved all the students who were in the classroom."

Joe said that his parents were very happy in the United States, where they have been living since 1984. "He and my mom led a simple life, at a pastoral place in West Virginia, between hills and mountains, and he loved the school in which he taught."

"He is scientist who did not work for money, but for the pleasure he got from his occupation," he added.

More from the Associated Press here:

Librescu, 76, had known hardship since his childhood.

When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in Second World War , he was first interned at a labour camp in Transnistria and then deported along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a ghetto in the Romanian 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 Romania's Nazi-allied regime during the war.

"We were in Romania during the Second World War, and we were Jews there among the Germans, and among the anti-Semitic Romanians," Marlena Librescu told Israeli Channel 10 TV on Tuesday.

After the war, Librescu became a successful engineer under the postwar communist government and worked at Romania's aerospace agency. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, his son said, and 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 an emigration permit. They moved to Israel in 1978.

Librescu left Israel for Virginia in 1985 for a year sabbatical, but eventually made the move permanent, said Joe Librescu, who himself studied at Virginia Tech from 1989-1994. The elder Librescu, who was an engineering and math lecturer at the school, published extensively and received numerous awards for his work.

"His work was his life in a sense," his son said.

In Romania, the academic community mourned Librescu's death.

"It is a great loss," said Ecaterina Andronescu, rector of the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, where Librescu graduated in 1953. "We have immense consideration for the way he reacted and defended his students with his life."

So do we. So do we.

Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord,
the man you teach from your law;
you grant him relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.

- Psalm 94: 12-13