Tears, Pride for Holocaust Survivor, Virginia Tech Librescu At Israel Funeral

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  • Tears, Pride for Holocaust Survivor, Virginia Tech Librescu At Israel Funeral

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Tears, Pride for Holocaust Survivor, Virginia Tech Librescu At Israel Funeral

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<b>By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency</b>

Jerusalem ----April 21...... "Daddy, tell me the story again," said the 6-year-old girl. "Tell me how he saved the big children."

It had been hours earlier in this pristine, palm tree lined Ra&#39;anana cemetery that hundreds stood mourning and praising Holocaust survivor and Virginia Tech hero for sacrificing his life so that his students would live.

"He was a good man," said Amanda. "Will he come back to life now?" she asked.

It was this young girl&#39;s first trip to a cemetery. I explained to her that in life we are born in hospitals, live our lives and then we are buried in cemeteries. "We will all be buried in a cemetery, but some people die from old age, others from diseases, but this man - he was a hero. He was buried here because he gave life to the big children in Virginia," I told her.

A link to exclusive <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi1GMAz7DSs">INA video of the Liviu Librescu funeral in Ra&#39;anana appears here</a>

I had promised my daughter when picking her up from her mother&#39;s home that we were going to visit a real hero.

Heroes come and go.

Moshe Dayan is credited for many acts of bravery, including opening up the City of Jerusalem with Yitzhak Rabin in 1967. David Ben-Gurion had the wisdom and leadership to win Israel&#39;s battle for independence, creating the modern Jewish state of Israel. But Dayan and Ben-Gurion, who became myths larger than life, had also been criticized. Ben-Gurion for attacking an Irgun ship - the Altalena and Dayan for stealing and selling archaeological treasures from Israel soil.

They had both been in the public spotlight for many years. Their achievements were many. Their faults were few but still they were mere mortals.

But Liviu Librescu was a hero with no baggage.

He had survived the Nazi holocaust, he had survived persecution in communist Romania. Only to find peace and tranquility teaching in the hills of Virginia - until last Monday.

In a remarkable act of sacrifice and bravery, the 75-year-old Israel professor and Holocaust survivor was murdered in the massacre at Virginia Tech on Holocaust Memorial Day, when he leaped between the crazed gunner and his students.

According to eye witnesses the heroic action of Liviu Librescu, a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, saved the lives of an unknown number of students in his class. Asael Arad, an Israeli Virginia Tech student told Israel Army Radio that "all the students lived - because of him."

The last person to see Professor Liviu Librescu alive appears to have been Alec Calhoun, a student at Virginia Tech who turned as he prepared to leap from a high classroom window to see the elderly academic holding shut the classroom door. The student jumped, and lived. Minutes later, the professor was shot dead.

The professor was popular among students and colleagues alike, and his ultimate sacrifice on Monday will cement that reputation.

The last stop on Cho Seung-Hui&#39;s killing spree was Librescu&#39;s classroom. The professor blocked the unlockable door with his body to hold out Cho while shouting for his students to escape through the classroom windows. Cho overpowered Librescu, pushed his way into the room and shot the professor in the head. All of his students survived.

Librescu&#39;s wife told the <i>NRG</i> Web site that her husband had loved his job with "all his heart and his soul."

Librescu was a gifted scientist in Romania, and the government tried to prevent him from moving to Israel. He was eventually allowed to leave the country after then Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin made a special appeal to President Nicolae Ceausescu, <i>Ynetnews</i> reported.

Librescu immigrated to Israel from Romania in 1978 but moved to Virginia in 1986 for his sabbatical and had remained their ever since. The professor has two sons, one named Arieh who lives in Israel, and another, Joe, who resides in the US.

Librescu was described by his colleagues as a "true gentleman."

He was one of 33 people murdered in what has been described as the biggest single shooting attack in US history. They all had died in the rampage, including the gunman, 23-year-old student Cho Seung-Hui from South Korea, who committed suicide.

Cho, who had sent a package to NBC News between the first and second shooting attacks at Virginia Tech, stated in a manifesto that he hated rich people and warned that he would get even. These facts emerged from a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case.

Late Wednesday, MSNBC showed a photo from the package of Cho glaring at the camera, his arms outstretched with a gun in each hand. He wears a khaki-colored military-style vest, fingerless gloves and a backwards, black baseball cap.

Virginia Tech reported shootings on two sides of the 2,600-acre campus, the first at about 7:15 a.m. at a co-ed residential hall called West Ambler Johnston, and resuming about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.

According to students, at around 7:15 a.m. the gunman appeared in West Ambler Johnston and began searching rooms for his ex-girlfriend. He killed two people, Ryan Clark, and a freshman identified by students as Emily Hilscher.

In the second attack, the gunman shot professors and students in classrooms and hallways of the engineering building, killing around 30 people.

The carnage ended Monday with the gunman shooting himself in the face.

Students complained that the university did not adequately warn them about the gunman until over two hours after the first incident and around the time that the second round of killings began. At that time, an e-mail was sent.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger defended the university, saying authorities believed the shooting at the dorm was a domestic clash and an isolated incident. They also mistakenly thought the gunman had left the campus.

"We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur," Steger said.

He added, "We can only make decisions based on the information you had on the time. You don&#39;t have hours to reflect on it."

Steger explained that it was difficult to inform everyone at Virginia Tech because there were thousands of people arriving to the campus on Monday morning.

As controversy continues to grow regarding the apparent lack of proper security response to the first shooting, and why with a shooting suspect loose, was there no shut down of the Virginia Tech campus, many have started to heal their wounds, leaving the anger stage and moving onto grief. Now focusing on the positive aspects of humanity, the acts of courage and bravery which occurred during this bloody massacre.

In his speech at the United State Holocaust Memorial, US President George W. Bush paid tribute to Liviu Librescu, the aeronautics engineering professor who died while trying to save students during the shooting spree at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

"That day we saw horror, but we also saw acts of quiet courage. We saw this courage in a teacher named Liviu Librescu. With the gunman set to enter his class, this brave professor blocked the door with his body while his students fled to safety. On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others might live. And this morning we honor his memory, and we take strength from his example." President Bush said.

Liviu Librescu&#39;s body was transported to Israel last Wednesday, to be buried at the Kfar Nachman cemetery of the central Israel town of Ra&#39;anana.

Marilena, his wife, also flew also from New York Wednesday arrived in Tel Aviv Thursday, 37-year-old son Arieh told Deutsche Presse-Agentur in a telephone interview.

The funeral was attended by some 500 friends, family members, foreign diplomats and others who came to this Israel cemetery to pay their respects to this Jewish hero.

The funeral was to begin at 10 a.m. on a clear, sun drenched day.

Speaking at the ceremony, Librescu&#39;s son Joe wearing a ripped black shirt, reflected on the questions he had never asked his father. It is Jewish custom to rip a part of your clothes when mourning a relative.

"They&#39;re asking me today about your past, and I don&#39;t know what to tell them," he said. "I&#39;m proud of you. I walk today with my head held high."

"Sometimes I didn&#39;t hear you, but my ears are now wide open to your legacy," he went on. "I&#39;m doing my best, reaching to the moon - I know I can reach it because of you."

Librescu&#39;s wife, Marlena, had lost any remnants of composure. She spoke to her husband Liviu who was wrapped in a white and black prayer shawl according to Jewish tradition. "My sweetheart, I am in such pain. So much pain. I have lost not just a husband, but my best friend," she said.

"I was blessed to be with him each day for 42 years - to learn from his wisdom, to receive his advice - and I thank you for giving me our two children. I&#39;m now blessed to be with them," said Marlena.

"It&#39;s so painful for me to think of your last moments, in which you suffered. I&#39;ll never know what went through your mind, but I hope very much that wherever you are, you will watch over your family," Librescu&#39;s weeping wife, Marlena, said.

"I ask forgiveness from you for every time I upset you. I hope you will protect your family from where you reside now," she said, adding, "I have only the good left from you.... May it go easy for you, my sweetheart."

The professor&#39;s other son, Arie, said his father had "always said to be strong."

"Father, I believe that at this moment you&#39;re looking down on us from above and saying, what is all this crowing around? I only did what I had to do. From our childhood, you taught us to care for people, to work hard, to succeed, but you never taught us to be heroes. It is more theoretical a lesson than aerodynamics," he said. "A hero must have the right combination of certain attributes, and you had them."

According to Arie, his father "used every spare minute to do what he loved." Speaking of his father&#39;s teaching, Librescu said that "the courses in aerodynamics have ended. On the 16th of the month, you started a new career, teaching a new subject - heroism - which millions of students are learning."

Arie thanked family, friends and neighbors in Israel and around the world for all they had done for the family - and particularly for his mother - in their time of loss.

He added special thanks for "a righteous man, an organization, Chabad, someone who drove five hours to mother [the day of the shooting] and made sure the body would come to Israel as soon as possible."

Rabbi Danny Cohen, a Chabad representative in Hebron and a close friend of Arie, said at the funeral that "Librescu&#39;s last act lit a fire of unity throughout the world. This evening, tens of thousands of Jewish women will light Shabbat candles at the special request of Marlena."

Librescu&#39;s wife stated that lighting Shabbat candles was his favorite mitzvah.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Arie said his mother would now move to back Israel once she has completed the arrangements in the US.

Gheorghe Angelescu, adviser to the president of Romania, presented Marlena Librescu at the funeral with the Grand Cross of Romania - the country&#39;s highest civilian honor, which was previously granted to the prime ministers of France and Italy.

Librescu was given the award for his scientific achievements and the heroism surrounding his death. According to Angelescu, Librescu "was a very important scientist - not just for Israel or Romania, but for the world."

Liviu Librescu was murdered on Holocaust Memorial Day and buried on Hitler&#39;s birthday.

It appears that his act of bravery has reinforced one day and has overshadowed the other.

A child in Nazi-allied Romania during Second World War, Librescu was deported along with his family to a labour camp in Transnistria and then to a central ghetto in the city of Focsani, his son said. According to a report compiled by the Romanian government in 2004, between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were killed by the Romanian regime during the war.

Librescu later worked as an engineer at Romania&#39;s aerospace agency under the postwar Communist government, his son recounted, but his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to the regime. He was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.

After years of government refusal, according to his son, Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family emigration permits. They moved to Israel in 1978. The family left Israel in 1985 for Virginia, where Librescu took a position teaching mathematics and engineering at Virginia Tech.

"Daddy, who is worse, Hezbollah or Cho," my daughter asked as we stood over Liviu Librescu&#39;s grave. A small white sign bearing Librescu&#39;s name in Hebrew stood next to earth which was decorated with several colorful wreaths and flowers.
"They are both bad. But today we are here to say thank you to a hero."

My small daughter picked up a small white stone from a basket sitting next to the grave. She placed the stone on the freshly packed brown dirt.

"Goodbye professor teacher who saved us. Goodbye."

--

Original Source: Israel News Agency
<a href="http://www.israelnewsagency.com/liviulibrescuvirginiatechherofuneralisraelholocaust48042107.html">http://www.israelnewsagency.com/liviulibrescuvirginiatechherofuneralisraelholocaust48042107.html</a>

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Joel Leyden

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2007-08-12

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Joel Leyden, "Tears, Pride for Holocaust Survivor, Virginia Tech Librescu At Israel Funeral," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1004, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/1004 (accessed April 18, 2014).