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Dr. Liviu Librescu, an aeronautics engineer who died while holding off the gunman in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting long enough for all but one of his students to escape through a window at his direction, was born in Romania on this date in 1930. He survived the Holocaust as a youth in a labor camp in Transnistria and a ghetto in the Romanian city of Focșani. In the late 1970s, he was stripped of his academic credentials by the communist Romanian government and was eventually permitted to emigrate to Israel after Prime Minister Menachem Begin made a personal appeal to Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu. From 1979 to 1986, Librescu was professor of aeronautical and mechanical engineering at Tel Aviv University and also taught at the Technion in Haifa. He came to Virginia Tech during his sabbatical year and at age 76 became one of thirty-two victims of the Virginia Tech shooter. During the rampage, Librescu kept the door of his classroom shut while the gunman tried to push in. Shot through the door and hit with five bullets, Librescu nevertheless barred the killer’s entry long enough for more than twenty students to escape. The street in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest is named in his honor.
“He was always, always helping. But he was not able to help himself.” --Marlena Librescu, his wife
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.