On April 16, 2007 the unthinkable had happened. An armed man broke into the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, but thanks to one heroic Israeli professor called Liviu Librescu, 22 students had escaped.
Liviu Librescu was born on August 18, 1930 in Romania to Jewish parents. He survived the Holocaust and studied aerospace engineering and received his MA in 1952. He then married Marlena and in 1969 he earned a Ph. D in fluid mechanics. His career was destroyed in the 1970s because of his sympathy for Israel and his fierce opposition of the Communist Party. However, he was not allowed to immigrate there. In 1978, Menahem Begin, the former prime minister of Israel, personally vouched for the right of Librescu to immigrate to Israel. In the same year Liberscu moved to Israel. There he had two children: Joe and Arieh. For the next seven years, he taught Aeronautical and Mechanical engineering at the Technion, one of the most prominent institutes in Israel. Liberscu was invited as a visiting professor for a year at Virginia Tech. He started teaching there in 1986. Just before the year was over Liberscu was asked to stay for a permanent role at the University because of his talents and skills. At the University he was a prominent professor writing more articles than any other professor at the institute.
On April 16 the world was shocked by the horrific actions of Seung Hu Cho, who single handedly murdered 32 innocent students and professors. However, when Cho reached room 204 of Solid Mechanics the massacre stopped thanks to Professor Liviu Librescu. When Liberscu heard gunfire in the nearby classrooms, he immediately locked the door. As the gunman started shooting at the door, Liberscu yelled to the students to escape through the windows as he rushed to hold the door with his body. Out of 23 students in his classroom only one was killed. Liberscu took five bullets through the door with the last one hitting him in the head and killing him. He was 76 at the time of his death.
Liviu Librescu lived all his life in a struggle to survive. When he was a child, he survived the Holocaust in World War II. When he was a young man, he survived Soviet Labor camps. When he was a grown man, he survived the Communism of Romania under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausesco. All of these experiences gave him the courage to defend his students on April 16.
Nobody knows what Librescu thought in his last moments when he struggled to overcome the murderer. One thing is certain – he chose to save his students instead of himself. He chose to save their lives for a better world without struggle.