Liviu Librescu. The more I hear about this man the more my heart breaks for humanity at his loss. I would have been better to have known him, I think.
Librescu was the professor who barracaded the door with his own body so his students could flee the gunmen at the Virginia Tech massacre on Monday morning. A 76 year old holocaust survivor, he was gunned down on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. And his final act was to embody the mantra known worldwide: Never Again.
Librescu was in his classroom when shots rang out from next door. He rushed to the door and held it shut. His students kicked out the windows and most jumped to the bushes below.
“I saw your husband still standing there,” one student wrote. “He was holding the door closed and looking over his shoulder to make sure everybody else was safe. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen. ”
Never again will we stand by and watch as others are harmed or killed. This was said by multitudes in condemnation after the Jewish Holocaust, yet seldom has it been an idea actually lived by, let alone died for. The Armenian Genocide of twenty years previous had also been condemned, but so much of the “never again” mantra is just empty gesture by those ashamed of their collective inaction to prevent such tragedies–a statement by outsiders that “we will do better next time.” Yet we do not.
Liviu Librescu saved unknown numbers of students by standing alone against a door, knowing death waited for him on the other side. And he was proof of what we can be as a people. As the human race. Should we choose a truly benevolent path.
With the current situation in Darfur, we must rise as one and make our leaders listen.
(April 2, 2004) Ten years ago, the world abandoned Rwanda’s Tutsis to genocide. 800,000 people were murdered by their Hutu neighbors. Although a heroic Canadian general, Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire requested reinforcements for the 2,500 United Nations peacekeepers in
Rwanda and a mandate to stop the genocide, the U.N. Security Council instead voted to withdraw U.N. troops. We watched and washed our hands.
And so today I cry, yes, cry, for Liviu Librescu, who taught not only by word but by deed as well. And I pray we will learn to protect each other before the immediacy of this latest act of mass murder slips from our o-so-short attention spans and we go back to our self-centered ways.
As USATODAY put it,
It is not too soon to learn lesson No. 1 from the pathetic international response to Darfur and Rwanda: Despite the almost ritualistic pledge of “never again,” no coherent international system or process is in place for responding to genocide and other atrocities. What does exist is chaotic and futile finger-pointing, while the slaughter goes on.
Act today. Remember Liviu Librescu, and the conviction that made him give his life to save others. May we all learn to live so well. Even if it’s one hero at a time.