Every life lost and person killed at Virginia Tech is to be mourned. There are some stories that touch us differently, and the story of Liviu Librescu was the first I read — and it took my breath away.
The Tech professor, a native of Romania, survived the Holocaust (despite being sent to a labor camp and a ghetto) and was able to emigrate to Israel only after the personal intervention of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. After a sabbatical at Tech in the mid-1980s, the engineer chose to stay in the bucolic countryside and made Blacksburg his home. (Please read his life history — I cannot do it justice here. Please check out the information on Wikipedia and the Washington Post, among other resources.) (And yes, now you understand one of the reasons this man is dear to my heart.)
On the morning of April 16, despite already being shot, he held his classroom door closed while most his students lept out the windows before the gunman broke into the room. Librescu died giving many of his students a chance to live. His death, ironically enough, occurred on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).
I am among the many who never met him, yet weep at his death and admire his selfless act. I can only hope that I can find in myself even a small modicum of such bravery if ever I need it.
Philip C. Selz wrote a poem as a tribute to Librescu, and I thank him for his kindness in allowing me to share it with you. You may contact the poet at email@example.com.
A Tribute to Liviu Librescu
In the darkest times we've seen, I was sent into the camps
As I smelled the stench of burning flesh, I knew my kin were gone
Survival was my only thought, I knew I must come through
But I didn't know the reason that my living must go on
And when the war had ended, liberation finally came
And I grew to be a man and shortly after took a wife
And we raised our kids in Israel and we did the best we could
And we lived for those who died and worked to make a useful life
Then a teaching job came to me in America one day
And I thought that building new young minds was destiny for me
So I traveled to Virginia and I made a brand new start
And I taught engineering in this homeland of the free
Now I hear the hallways screaming as shots are fired there
And I hear the terror in the screams and understand their plight
So I bar the door from danger and I tell my students "Run!"
And as the bullets breach the door I know that I must fight
And in these final moments as my life is seeping out
I think back over 60 years and finally understand
My own salvation now makes sense as children flee and live
I was saved that day to save this day, I've finally made my stand.
by Philip C. Selz