Liviu Librescu

by Meghan from San Diego


Deafening sounds of gunshots and screams rang through Norris Hall on April 16th, 2007. Students were panicking, flipping over desks as they glanced at the person beside them and silently said goodbye. Locked in the classroom, their fate stood before them as soon as the gunman arrived. Just as the shooter was going to burst into the classroom, Liviu Librescu, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech sprinted to the door and held it shut with his body. He never hesitated to save his students. He shouted out orders to them to kick out the windows and jump down, the kids did what they were told and many were saved. "I hung on to the ledge. The professor was trying to hold the door closed. I was the last one out that was not wounded" (Mass). The murderous shooter, Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people before he committed suicide (Lindsey). Without Liviu Librescu the number of fatalities that day would have increased greatly. Liviu faced many difficulties in his life before April 16th 2007. “Librescu was sent to a ghetto holding Jews in World War II and his father was sent to a cruel work camp” (Turley). He survived the Holocaust, and coped with the horrifying memories that went along with it. Throughout the adversities in his life, Liviu’s true heart and morals shine through the destructive times he has lived in. Liviu Librescu was a man who had a courageous personality, performed selfless acts of sacrifice, and had a story that still serves as an inspiration to all; he full heartedly deserves the title of hero.


Liviu couldn’t have chased his dream of becoming an engineering professor, stood in front of that classroom door, nor survived the Holocaust if he didn’t possess a tremendous amount of courage. Liviu was often described as a warm-hearted father and virtuous teacher despite a past that could have left him cold and without a passion to succeed in life. “As a child in Romania during World War II, Liviu was confined to a Jewish ghetto while his father was sent to a forced labor camp. After surviving the Holocaust, Liviu moved forward with stalwart determination to become an engineer” (Liviu Librescu). Liviu never gave up even though he lived through one of the most terrible times in history. He still had dreams and aspirations even though he didn’t know when or even if he was going to make it out alive or unharmed. Not only was he courageous early in his life, but at the end as well. He stayed true to what he knew was the right thing to do and blocked the door into the classroom. “I know that classroom, and I know he could have jumped from the window to the grass. But I guess it's just an instinct: He decided to protect his students, which is what a professor should do," says Aboudi, an engineering professor” (The Holocaust survivor who saved a classroom). Librescu’s actions radiated courage. He wasn’t afraid of what might happen to himself because he was saving his students, and that was all that mattered. At that moment he stood up for his family, his students, and Virginia Tech by courageously holding the door to room 204 shut.


Considering the numerous gunshots and murderous attacks Liviu had faced during the Holocaust, he should have fled from the attacker and towards the window with the rest of his students. But, the most special part of Librescu’s story is that the mere thought of fleeing never crossed his mind. “Panic quickly took hold of the class as students began to scream and turn over desks for shelter. Librescu knew better. He shouted for his students to kick out the window screens and jump for safety as he used his body to block the door. As many as 15 students were saved before the 23-year-old English major was able to overcome the 76-year-old professor by shooting him through the door. Librescu died there in his classroom while most of his students jumped out of the windows to safety”(Turley). To me, self-sacrifice is the most heroic action that anyone could ever perform. It encompasses the knowledge that the person(s) being saved will come out alive and the person who is sacrificing themself will not live to hug their children, move forward in their career, or create any more memories with their loved ones. Liviu cared so much for his students that he knew his family would understand why he chose to do what he did. Liviu’s wife said this at his funeral, "I believe you are looking at us from above, at this gathering, and saying: 'What, don't you have anything to do? I did what I had to do,' " Arie said. "A hero has to have a combination of characteristics, which you had” (Wilson). His wife accepted what he did and for Liviu it wasn’t something he did for fame, it was a duty that he chose. Librescu’s actions permitted many college students to go home to their loved ones and be thankful for being alive. Self-sacrifice means a lot more when the hero saves more than one person. Liviu not only saved a large majority of his classroom, but also became an inspiration for his surviving students and so many others.


Every year Virginia Tech has a memorial for people who lost their lives on April 16th 2007. Professor Librescu will never be forgotten and the murderous act that ended his life will never overshadow the immense inspiration he gave to all who encountered the story. His family is proud to call him their father and husband, “I'm proud of you," he added (Librescu’s son). "I walked in the street today proud I have such a father" (Wilson). Liviu always wanted to be a good example for his family and his actions on that day were more than just an example for his family; they served as an inspiration to the world. Rightfully he was awarded, “Awarded him the country's highest medal for his heroism and his achievements as a scientist” (Glasgow). The award recognized him for being a hero. It is my belief that Liviu showed every characteristic of a hero. Not even the bullets that ended his life can take away his courageous, self-sacrificial, and inspirational acts of heroism.

Page created on 8/28/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/7/2020 2:24:44 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

We Remember Virginia Tech - Information on memorial services and the other lives lost
One year after - How Virginia Tech did a year after the shooting


Glasgow, Scotland . "I'M SO PROUD OF MY HERO FATHER; Tears for prof killed in college slaughter." article.

Lindsey, Sue. "Gunman Kills 32 in Virginia Tech Rampage." Article.

Virginia Polytechnic. "Liviu Librescu | We Remember | Virginia Tech." Article.

Mass, Warren. "A professor gives his life." Article.

Christian Science. "The Holocaust survivor who saved a classroom." Article.