An Israeli lecturer killed in Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech saved the lives of several students by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman.
Students of Liviu Librescu, 76, an engineering and mathematics lecturer at Virginia Tech for 20 years, sent e-mails to his wife that told of how he blocked the gunman’s way and saved their lives, said the Librescu’s son, Joe.
“My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee,” Joe Librescu said from his home outside of Tel Aviv. “Students started opening windows and jumping out.”
Librescu, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, was killed during the second of two shooting sprees perpetrated by the gunman that day, which happened to be Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The massacre, in which a gunman identified as 23-year-old Virginia Tech senior Cho Seung-Hui, killed 32 people at the university before committing suicide, was the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history.
Asael Arad, an Israeli freshman at the Blacksburg, Va. campus, said that he had heard from Librescu’s wife that her husband died trying to block the gunman from entering the room where he was teaching. “He blocked the door with his body so the killer wouldn’t be able to get into the class,” Arad said. “He got shot through the door.”
Librescu emigrated from his native country to Israel in 1978. A source at the Israeli Embassy in Washington confirmed that Librescu, a noted research scientist, initially had been prevented from emigrating by Romania’s communist government. An appeal by then-prime minister Menachem Begin to Romania’s president paved the way for Librescu and his wife, Marlena, to move to Israel.
Librescu and his family moved to Virginia in the mid-1980s for his sabbatical and then decided to stay.
Joe Librescu and his brother, Arie, both attended Virginia Tech.
“This is the last place that you could imagine something like this happening,” Joe Librescu told Israeli television.
In Romania, the academic community also was mourning Librescu’s death.
“It is a great loss,” said Ecaterina Andronescu, rector of the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, where Librescu graduated in mechanics and aviation construction in 1953. The university declared Tuesday a day of mourning in honor of Librescu.
“We have immense consideration for the way he reacted and defended his students with his life,” Andronescu said.
Librescu also received a doctorate from the Bucharest-based Academy of Sciences in 1969, and received an honorary degree from the Polytechnic University in 2000.
Librescu, who specialized in composite structures and aeroelasticity, published extensively and received numerous awards for his work. He also received several NASA grants and taught courses at the University La Sapienza in Rome.