Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Finally, Something Besides Conjecture Gets Said

Yesterday, in a comment that I requested, Oddjob, was totally correct when he pointed out that I took the events of Monday, then wrote about myself. Today is different. This except comes from the Baltimore Sun.

Professor Liviu Librescu was a survivor of the Holocaust, who then escaped from Romania. He was teaching a class when:
In Monday morning's lecture on solid mechanics, all was quiet except for the sound of Professor Liviu Librescu's voice.
Then came the gunshots -- in the classroom next door. In an instant, Virginia Tech's Norris Hall, a building dedicated to the science of engineering, was torn apart by the worst shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Junior Richard Mallalieu said he and about 20 classmates instantly dropped to the floor, ducking under and behind desks for what sounded like the first 10 shots.

"It wasn't like an automatic weapon, but it was a steady 'pow,' 'pow,' 'pow,' 'pow,' " Mallalieu, 23, said in a phone interview with The Sun. "We didn't know what to do at first." Then the sound of the gunshots shifted. Coming closer.

Their next move became instantly clear: Get out.

Mallalieu said his professor held the door shut while students darted to the windows. Some climbed on desks, ledges and a radiator cover to pull down the screens and kick at the metal-framed glass, Mallalieu said. Three windows easily gave way and swung open on hinges as the gunshots got louder.


"It sounded like he was going out into the hallway," said Mallalieu, a civil engineering major from Luray, Va.

Once the windows for the sec ond-floor classroom were open, Mallalieu and most of his classmates hung out of them and dropped about 10 feet to bushes and grass below, he said.

Some students ran to a nearby building. Others waited to help students who had been injured in the fall, Mallalieu said.

But then the sound of gunfire filled their classroom, sending all who had escaped toward nearby Patton Hall, he said.

Mallalieu said he never saw Librescu escape. "I don't think my teacher got out."

I do not approve of those who are suggesting that any of the victims brought about their own deaths by their behaviors at this moment of surprise and extreme pressure. I have felt those pressures enough to know that there isn't anyone who can predict in a rational manner what the response to something that is unimaginable might be. Miltary training consists of repeating things over and over so that when that moment comes the soldier, will hopefully be able to override every fiber of human instinct screaming at him to do something else. The nature of courage is something that philosophers and poets have been exploring since the beginning. I think that it is this. What makes someone courageous is not the absence of fear. The courageous people that I have known all felt fear, often felt fear deeply. What made the difference, what set them apart is that they found things that matter more than their fear. I have never felt brave myself. I was, at times, able to pretend like I was brave, for the sake of the guys around me.

"The Way of the Warrior" will be said tonight, to honor a brave man.



Anonymous tata said...

That's beautifully put, MB.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous blackdog said...

Very well said. Professor Librescu was evidently a most remarkable human being. What a tragic loss, I couldn't help but notice that his photo showed a man who looked to be in great shape for his many years.

I can only hope that when my destiny faces me that I can meet it with a bit of apprehension and with a measure of bravery.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Sherry said...

i wish i could say it with you. it seems only right.

blessings on him and his and all.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Professor Librescu is what the Ashkenazim call a "mensch", and is a particularly good example of one.

The very best I've heard of in a long time.

We are blessed by the lesson of his sacrifice and also diminished by the loss of his life.

May he rest in a well deserved peace!

- oddjob

7:40 PM  
Blogger Maggie Rosethorn said...

As said above, beautifully said. Your honoring of a brave man is what he deserves.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Constant Comment said...

The professor, a Holocaust survivor, was killed on Holocaust Memorial Day. The irony is too much. On NPR a few days ago, I heard one of his students talking about what he had done. Couldn't help but cry for him.


10:11 AM  

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