Israeli professor killed in US attack

Holocaust survivor throws himself in front of assailant to save students.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
April 17, 2007 15:42
3 minute read.
Israeli professor killed in US attack

librescu father son 298 . (photo credit: Courtesy Virginia Tech / Channel 2)

 
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Joe Librescu, son of murdered Virginia Tech engineering professor Liviu Librescu, expressed overwhelming pride in his father's life, and in his death, on Tuesday. "He's unique on multiple levels," Librescu told The Jerusalem Post by phone from the family's home outside Tel Aviv. Professionally, "he's one of the finest researchers in his field in the world." As a father, Librescu said, Liviu Librescu "believed in excellence and was a strong figure."

  • Violence rips deep into America's soul
  • Virginia Tech shooting
  • Barricaded in Hillel "He saw himself as the ambassador of Israel to that part of the world, to an American university that had few Israelis but many representatives from the Arab world," Librescu said. Librescu threw himself in front of the assailant in Virginia Tech College, blocking the entrance to his classroom and saving the students inside. Librescu's life in Romania, which ended with the family's move to Israel in 1978, was difficult from the start. A teenager during WWII, he survived fascist Romania and life in the shadow of the Gestapo. His father was deported to a forced labor camp during the war, while Librescu spend part of the war in relative safety in Russia, Joe Librescu said. "Afterward," he said, "he endured [communist dictator Nicolae] Ceaucescu's Romania." As a scientist, his contacts with the outside world were blocked. When his desire to leave for Israel became known, he was forced to resign his position without knowing whether he would find other work. "Nevertheless, and at risk to his life, he continued to publish," Librescu said. "So I wasn't surprised at what he did when [facing] the shooter [Monday]." His life was devoted to his science, "and we were proud because we understood that he was creating something big, even if it was abstract and formulaic and hard to pronounce," Librescu said about his father's research on aircraft design and materials science. Liviu Librescu's oft-tested personal courage, coupled with his devotion to science, made him a man unafraid "to die in the place he loved the most, the classroom," his son believes. Now, Librescu's murder is bringing "a family that has lived far from one another, with the parents in the United States and the children in Israel, back together," Librescu said, "closing a circle over 20 years old, from when [his father] first left [Israel] for a sabbatical [in the US in 1986.]" Prof. Librescu's wife, Marlena Librescu is preparing to fly to Israel with the body for a funeral Thursday in Ra'anana. She is receiving help from her friends and "the few Israeli families in the area," Librescu said. She and her two sons, Joe and Arie, are the only immediate family his father had, so "she doesn't have a reason to stay there [in Virginia] anymore," Librescu said. He is making arrangements with the burial society and the Foreign Ministry. "We feel pride despite the tragedy and the sadness," Librescu said. "The story of his actions [during the shooting] is unbelievable. There's a whirlpool of emotions. But pride stands above everything else, pride that there will always be people, students and others, who grew up in his teaching." 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 respect for the way he reacted and defended his students with his life." At the Polytechnic, where Librescu received an honorary degree in 2000, his picture was placed on a table, a candle was lit and people placed flowers nearby. Prof. Nicolae Serban Tomescu described Librescu as "strong and dignified." "He had a huge affection for his students and he sacrificed his life for them," he said. AP contributed to this report.

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