Sometimes, heroes don’t wear uniforms. Sometimes ordinary people find themselves confronted by extraordinary situations, and bravery emerges from deep within. Sometimes that bravery emerges more than once.
As a young Jewish man growing up in Romania, Liviu Librescu was confronted first with fascism in WWII, then with communism in the post-war era under Nicolae Ceaucescu. As a scientist, he gave a glimpse of his character when he, “… refused to swear allegiance to the communist government,” according to Laurie Copans of the Associated Press, essentially killing his career. Later, he was forced to resign after the government discovered he wanted to move to Israel. “Nevertheless, and at risk to his life, he continued to publish,” his son told Haviv Rettig of The Jerusalem Post.
He eventually moved to Israel, then to the United States, where he found a home and a rewarding position at Virginia Tech. It was in the classroom where his mettle emerged again. After hearing gunshots in nearby rooms, Librescu blocked the door of his classroom with his own body, instructing his students to escape out the windows while he held the attacker at bay. Eventually, the gunman fought his way in, killing the 76 year-old professor in the process.
None of his students perished that day.
He had lived through a world war, fascism, communism, religious oppression…but his destiny was to give his life to save others. He died – along with 31 other innocent vicitims – on April 16th, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.
He didn’t wear a uniform – he wasn’t even an American – but he saved American lives at the cost of his own.
Liviu Librescu, an Israeli citizen, is our Hero of the Week.
For the complete stories, see Holocaust survivor saved students’ lives (AP) and Isaeli professor killed in US attack (Jerusalem Post).