Catalyst

Learning from Life and Leadership

The Survivor Who Saved Others

Courage2

April 16 has different means for many people. For Jews around the world it marks the Day of Remembrance, a time to pause to remember the horrors of the Holocaust. Its whispered theme is “never again.”

The Holocaust was real for Liviu Librescu. As a child in his native Romania, Nazi guards herded him and his family into the ghetto of Foscani. About 300,000 Jews died in the coming years due to the forced labor and terror.

Liviu had keen skills in math and could think in abstract forms and was a natural for an engineer. After working at an aerospace factory in Communist Romania, he wanted more. The Israeli government pled his case, allowing his family to come to America in 1985. He enrolled in postgraduate work, completing his studies in 1994. His alma mater was Virginia Tech.

On April 16, 2007, Liviu had to endure another horror. A gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 others.

As an engineering teacher at Virginia Tech, Liviu heard the “bang-bang” of a Glock handgun echoing down the hallways of Norris Hall and the footsteps were coming toward his classroom full of students.

At the door, the 76-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, put his body against the door. A push and shove but he did not let it open. The gunman fired through the door panel, killing Librescu but moving onto other classrooms. His students to whom he was lecturing a few minutes before his death all survived.

Life is difficult, and, at times, senseless. Solomon mulled over existed with the word “emptiness” ready at his lips. That becomes an excuse not to help, not to aid, not to save. The pain of past suffering stifles many. They do not speak up about faith because of what people might think. They slink into the shadow of silence because it “might embarrass” or “I might be rejected.”

Some men survive the unspeakable abuse and pain. That becomes their springboard to help others. No one asks us to stand in front of a door to face a crazed killer. Many times it only requires us not to be silent of the evil around us.

Several young people have their lives in front of them because of a single action of a mild-mannered solid mechanics professor who had memory of the Holocaust. Whose destiny will be affected by what you do or refuse to do?

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