there will probably be no greater professor that liviu librescu. all you need to do is ask his students who were present on his last day of teaching. he taught them them a lesson that they will never forget. the lesson of life.
during the infamous virginia tech mass shooting in which 32 people were killed, dr. librescu’s last act was to sacrifice himself to save the students in his classroom. he blocked the door and ordered his students out the window. he saved all but one. vtechmemorial
“he was a scientist who did not work for money, but for the pleasure he got from his occupation.” always available for students, a caring teacher and devoted advisor to graduate student researchers. supra.
dr. librescu was all too familiar with the evil in this world. he was a holocaust survivor. once again, dr. librescu was face to face with acts of evil. he acted in the greatest way possible. he fought against it. he sacrificed his life and allowed for his students to live.
his final act, however, great should not diminish from what was an outstanding career in academia. “professor librescu survived the holocaust and earned his ph.d. from the academy of sciences in romania (1969) where he also rose to academic prominence. he had a thirst for freedom. he immigrated to israel from romania during the communist regime with the help of then prime minister menachem begin. Fortunately for us at virginia tech, he chose to spend his sabbatical (1985) in our engineering science and mechanics department, where he stayed and continued his research in aeroelasticity, thermal stresses and in composites. he recently published a book (thin-walled composite beams: theory and application, with o. song, springer, 2005) and has published more journal articles and conference papers than anyone else in the field.” vtechmemorial
we will never truly know what motivated him on that day. we can speculate. we can speculate that he believed that he had lived a long spectacular and fulfilling life. we can speculate that he understood and was not afraid to confront acts of evil. we can speculate that he had a love and devotion to his students that reached far beyond the classroom and that he wanted them to live a wonderful life as much as he had.
what to make of this amazing story? we should all try to live a great and fulfilling life. we should be prepared for the unknown. we should be aware that life defining moments can occur when you least expect them. we should remember our past and be prepared in the history to repeat itself. we should reflect that at some point in our lives we may be the ones saving others and that at some point we may be the one fleeing while others are making the ultimate sacrifice.
as it is written in the talmud, whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world . jerusalem talmud, sanhedrin 4:1 (22a.) on dr. librescu’s last day, he saved many worlds. he should always be in our memory. his family was blessed to have him.