The Hero

On April 16, 2007, a man killed 33 people and wounded 28 in the bloodiest incident of its kind; it took place at the Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech reported shootings on two sides of the 2,600-acre campus, the first at about 7:15 a.m. at a co-ed residential hall called West Ambler Johnston, and resuming about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building. The carnage ended Monday with the gunman shooting himself in the face.

The Romanian professor Liviu Librescu, the 75-year-old Holocaust survivor blocked the assailant from entering his classroom and told his students to flee. He was killed on Holocaust Memorial Day, when he leaped between the gunner and his students. “All the students lived because of him”, a Virginia Tech student said. "He should be recognized as a hero", Virginia Tech graduate student Philip Huffstetler said. "We should be in such great debt to his family for the rest of our lives". "He is the reason that the killer could not get inside and shoot more people", said another Virginia Tech student. "Obviously, he is a hero".

Liviu Librescu had known hardship since childhood. When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, he was first interned in a labor camp in Transnistria and then deported along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a central ghetto in the city of Focşani. As a successful engineer under the postwar Communist government, Librescu found work at Romania's aerospace agency. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the regime, 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, so they moved to Israel in 1978. Librescu left Israel for Virginia in 1985 for a sabbatical year, but eventually made the move permanent. Librescu taught engineering and mechanics, and his work had been published more times than that of any professor in Virginia Tech history. He was described by his colleagues as a "true gentleman".