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The amazing life of Liviu Librescu

Liviu Librescu

Liviu Librescu was no ordinary person as many people, including the ones he saved from being shot, soon realised.

Born in Ploiesti, in Romania in 1930 in a Jewish family, he was sent to a camp in Transnistria with other Jewish-Romanian families and then in a ghetto in Focsani. He was lucky to survive, as during those hard times it is estimated that a quarter of a million Romanian Jews died.

He continued his education, attended school and then studied aerospace engineering at the Polytechnic University in Bucharest in 1952 and then got a PhD in fluid mechanics in 1969. He then worked at an experimental aircraft and was awarded with the Traian Vuia award by the Romanian Academy of Science.

Later on, however Librescu was approached by the Communist party and because he refused to join, he was fired from his job at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Aerospace Constructions. During this time he still managed to publish his woks, which were sent secretly to Netherlands so they can get recognition. After heavy campaigning, with the help of the Israel president he was allowed to move to Israel where he worked as a a university teacher at the Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering University.

In 1985 he was invited by the Virginia Tech university in the United States to teach. This is where he became famous and started to be invited to symposiums and conferences to promote his research. He continued to work at this university for twenty years, long time after his retirement age.

On April 16, 2007 Librescu was teaching a class in a room in Norris Hall at Virginia Tech when student Heung-Hui Cho started shooting people on the campus. The student went around the classrooms of Norris Hall , when Librescu heard the shots and told the students to jump out the window. He ran to the door and blocked it with his own body. A student who witnessed the whole thing remembers “”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”.

The gunman entered the room, killed the professor and one student, then killed himself. Thanks to Librescu’s courage the number of victims could have been higher. He saved many lives that day and was honoured by the community. Librescu was awarded the Star of Romania, the country’s highest civilian honour and a memorial scholarship in Librescu’s honour was created by Virginia Tech University.