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Tel Aviv University engineering and mechanics Prof. Ya'acov Aboudi sent an e-mail Tuesday morning to his longtime friend and former colleague Prof. Liviu Librescu in his Virginia Tech office after hearing of the savage shooting attack on campus.
"I knew he used to come late to work, so I was sure he was not involved," said Aboudi. "But then 15 minutes after I sent the message, a mutual friend called to say Liviu was dead."
The 76-year-old scientist, who held the door to his classroom shut so his students could escape the murderer by climbing out the window, was shot and killed by the assailant. Librescu made aliya with his wife, Marlene, a dentist, in 1978 from Bucharest after working in the city's aeronautics institute. Working under Nicolae Ceaucescu's fascist regime, Librescu was forbidden to have any contact with sources outside Romania, but he defied the ban, continuing to publish scientific articles secretly.
After moving to Israel, he worked at Tel Aviv University for five years, but was disappointed.
"He wanted to write many books and have a lot of students, but he didn't have so many at that time. He went on sabbatical with his wife and two sons to Virginia and then remained there," recalled Aboudi.
Librescu "didn't even learn how to drive; he just cared about his science."
Because he did not have long years of tenure and since there is no mandatory retirement age in US universities, said Aboudi, Librescu continued to work into his mid-70s.
"We were in touch, and I even visited him about five years ago in Virginia. He invited me a year ago to write an article for a special issue of a scientific journal."
Librescu "loved Israel very much," even though he lived in the United States for more than two decades, Aboudi said. "He had a house in Virginia that was damaged by a hurricane. One of his sons lives in the US and the other came back to live in Ra'anana."
"The university town is small, very quiet and peaceful. I don't think it has more than a handful of policemen. Nobody thought there would be any violence there," Aboudi said sadly.