RA’ANANA, Israel, April 20 — Liviu Librescu, the 76-year-old professor and Holocaust survivor who died protecting his students from the Virginia Tech gunman, was eulogized Friday in a cemetery surrounded by citrus groves as a quiet hero unfailingly devoted to his students and his work.
“I believe you are looking at us from above, at this gathering, and saying ‘What? Don’t you have anything to do?,’ ” said Aryeh Librescu, one of the professor’s two sons. The younger Librescu said his father would not have understood the fuss over his willingness to block a classroom door so students could escape Cho Seung Hui’s murderous rampage.
The well-liked professor, his son imagined, would say simply, “I did what I had to do.”
There is more to Librescu’s life, though, than what happened on April 16, 2007:
Internationally known for his work in aeronautical engineering, Librescu survived many great evils before Cho shot him to death in Blacksburg on Monday. He lived through the Holocaust as a teenager and fought against Communist dictatorship in his native Romania, eventually losing his government aerospace job when sought to emigrate to Israel.
In 1977, then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to secure permission for Librescu and his family to leave Romania and move to the Jewish state. Librescu taught and researched in Israel until the mid-1980s, when he left for a sabbatical at Virginia Tech that eventually turned permanent. He loved the rural setting of the university, and enjoyed music, sports, hiking and travel, his family said. But those who spoke at the funeral in Ra’anana, where Librescu’s sons live, said the professor valued his research and teaching above all.
“Where did he die? In the heart of the academy, in the classroom,” said Tel Aviv University professor Yakov Aboudi, a longtime friend and former colleague. “Was there a better place for him? It’s where he wanted to be.”
Too bad he had to cross paths with a madman.