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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Heroism in the Midst of Tragedy

It’s hardly something I can celebrate today--not in the context of the terrible sadness of those who will have to live with the murderous acts of Cho Seung-Hui. I’m sure that any family would much rather have their father/husband/son than a memorial for a hero. Yet it’s exactly that heroism that I would hope I could show in the same situation, that same courage that saves lives even in sacrifice.

It’s hard to celebrate Liviu Librescu today when we mourn, but it’s a name we will celebrate for years to come as we remember this tragedy. While a murderer was terrorizing a school, Professor Librescu did what he could to save his class full of students.

I don’t know what he was like in his daily life, but I think that this glimpse of him provides one hell of a measure of the man.

“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.

When the time for mourning is past, remember to celebrate the uncommon courage of people like Librescu.

Update: Kindly linked by my buddy, Trench, who also has a good number of links you should be reading.

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