09-28-2007, 09:34 AM
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Virginia Tech shooting victim is nominated for Medal of Freedom
Kaine nominates Tech shooting victim for medal of freedom
By SUE LINDSEY
Associated Press Writer
September 27, 2007
President Bush has been asked to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to a Holocaust survivor who died trying to save his students during the mass killings at Virginia Tech in April.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine made the request this week on behalf of Liviu Librescu, one of five faculty members slain as a student gunman killed 32 people and committed suicide April 16 on the Blacksburg campus.
"Liviu Librescu gravitated towards freedom: freedom from persecution, intolerance, and finally, from oppression," Kaine said in a letter to Bush dated Tuesday and released Thursday. "His courage through adversity speaks volumes."
Librescu, a 76-year-old aeronautics engineer and lecturer at Virginia Tech for 20 years, died trying to barricade the door of his classroom to keep Seung-Hui Cho away from his students.
"His willingness to sacrifice himself for his students is such a powerful story," Kaine said Thursday. "And I know how deeply the Virginia Tech community loved Professor Librescu and how much they miss him serving. I just thought who he was made him an excellent person to be nominated."
University spokesman Larry Hincker praised the professor's bravery.
"I believe and everyone I have spoken with here would consider Dr. Librescu a genuine hero," Hincker said. "We commend Governor Kaine for this noble and most fitting nomination."
When his native Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in World War II, Librescu was imprisoned in a labor camp, and then sent along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a ghetto in the city of Focsani. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews were killed during the war.
"Mr. Librescu was a survivor that sought liberty and truth during his lifetime," Kaine's letter said.
Kaine said Librescu was a "highly respected and promising researcher" in aeronautical engineering under Romania's postwar Communist government, but when he requested permission to emigrate to Israel he was denied the opportunity and fired from his job.
The Romanian government posthumously awarded Librescu the country's highest medal for his scientific accomplishments and heroism.
He continued studying until he was granted entry to Israel in 1979, where he taught at a university, Kaine said. In 1985, he took a position teaching at Virginia Tech.
Students in Librescu's class were able to jump out second-story windows to safety as he delayed Cho's entry to his classroom.
"Liviu Librescu's sacrifice of his own life allowed his students the freedom to live theirs," Kaine said in the letter.
Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Richmond contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007, Newport News, Va., Daily Press
He is also to represent all 32 who died.