Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hero Professor at Virginia Tech

Courageous final act of professor

Fatally shot as he protects students


Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 2:27 PM

Virginia Tech University Prof. Liviu Librescu, described as a family man who once did research for NASA, sacrificed his life to save his students in the shooting rampage yesterday.

"When he heard the gunfire, he blocked the entrance and got shot through the door," his daughter-in-law Ayala Schmulevich said.

"He realized he had to save the students," she said. "That was the kind of man he was."

The hero educator was beginning a class on solid mechanics when all hell broke loose on the second floor of Norris Hall.

First came the terrifying gunshots from a classroom next door.

"It wasn't like an automatic weapon, but it was a steady 'pow,' 'pow,' 'pow,' 'pow,'" student Richard Mallalieu, 23, told The Washington Post. "We didn't know what to do at first."

The students in the class dropped to the floor and started overturning desks to hide behind as about a dozen shots rang out, he said.

Then the gunfire started coming closer. Librescu, 77, fearlessly braced himself against the door, holding it shut against the gunman in the hall, while students darted to the windows of the second-floor classroom to escape the slaughter, survivors said.

Mallalieu and most of his classmates hung out of the windows and dropped about 10 feet to bushes and grass below - but Librescu stayed behind to hold off the crazed gunman.

Alec Calhoun, 20, said the last thing he saw before he jumped from the window was Librescu, blocking the door against the madman in the hallway.

He died trying to protect the students.

Librescu taught aerospace and ocean engineering but focused much of his time on research.

He leaves a wife and two sons. His family is planning to bury him in Israel.

Two other identified victims of the massacre, educator Christopher (Jamie) Bishop, 35, and student Ryan Clark, were mild-mannered gentlemen who by all accounts were liked and admired by those who knew them.

Bishop patiently guided undergrads at the Virginia Tech University through the intricacies of the German language and doted on his wife, Stefanie, and their cat, Trinity.

Clark was working on three majors - biology, English and psychology - yet managed to devote time to Circle K, the largest volunteer community service organization on campus, and serve as an officer with the Marching Virginians, the university's band.

Clark, 23, who was due to graduate soon and hoped to pursue a career in cognitive neuroscience, apparently was one of the first to die. The tall, thin student and resident student adviser was rushing to investigate the ruckus at the West Ambler Johnston Hall dorm when the crazed gunman shot him.

Clark, who was called "Stack" by his pals, "was one of the nicest guys I've ever known," said one friend who declined to give his name.

Another described Clark as helpful and a good listener. "When I was upset about something, he would come over and ask, 'Are you OK,'" she said.

Clark's family was too distraught to talk last night.

Bishop, who got his master's in German linguistics from the University of Georgia and lived in Germany for several years, became an adjunct member of the Virginia Tech staff in 2000.