Local attorneys organize tribute to Virginia Tech professor

 He had almost no time to decide, but he decided. He had almost no time to act, but he acted. He should not have been the last to leave, but the first. Yet on Monday, April 16, 2007, amid “the deadliest shooting rampage in American history,” Professor Liviu Librescu chose to sacrifice his life to save his students’ lives at Virginia Tech.


On March 2 at 1:30 p.m., Metro Detroit will have the opportunity to pay a hero’s tribute to Librescu at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills. The public is invited to attend the event at no cost. The multi-media event — combining drama, readings, music, newsreels and other media — the Professor Liviu Librescu Community Tribute is organized by local attorneys Howard Lederman of Berkley and Steve Kaplan of West Bloomfield.

 “When Professor Librescu died, my daughter was in university, and his courage really struck a cord with me. He received posthumous awards from three nations for his courage. When he died, leaders and people from all over the world, including the President, acclaimed him as a hero. But after 10 days, he was lost in the news cycle,” said Lederman. “He exemplifies the kind of leadership we need in the world today. He had an attitude about leadership motivating him to do what he did. Therefore, I am determined to make this community tribute event happen. If the doctor told me I had six months to live, I would spend a lot of those months honoring this man, his example and his message.”

On Monday, April 16, 2007, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, better known as Virginia Tech, a lone gunman rampaged through a dormitory and a science and engineering classroom building. He massacred 33 people and wounded many more. Most of the massacred and wounded were Virginia Tech students and teachers. According to The New York Times, citing federal law enforcement officials, it was “the deadliest shooting rampage in American history.” 

During the massacre, the shots of the gunman and the screams of the dying and wounded were nearing one Norris Hall classroom. The university's oldest professor, 76-year-old aeronautical engineering professor Liviu Librescu, was teaching his class. He and students heard sounds soon identified as shots and screams. Suddenly, the shots and screams grew louder. The class stopped. Everybody realized that they had to get out of the room. 

A few students locked the door. A few others opened the back window. But if the gunman shot into the classroom, even without opening the door, many students would be killed or wounded. So Librescu moved to the door and blocked it with his body. Unable to unlock the classroom door, the gunman shot into the classroom. Four shots hit Librescu. He died on the spot. But his students escaped through the back window and survived.    

The event honoring Librescu’s sacrifice will feature two dramas: The first will focus on the Romanian Iron Guard, its super-charismatic leader, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, its role in bringing on the Romanian Holocaust and its impact on young Librescu. The second will focus on  Librescu’s loss of his University of Bucharest research and teaching position for his refusal to join the Romanian Communist Party and his application to immigrate to Israel. 

The event also will include live and recorded music. Newsreels related to  Librescu’s life and the Virginia Tech Massacre will be featured, as well as readings related to his life experience. 

“We are getting together to honor and learn about Professor Librescu’s life experiences,” said Kaplan. “Why did he decide and act as he did? What can we learn from his life and his experience? And in doing so, what can we learn about ourselves?” 

Sponsors include The Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, BBYO, The Hillel Foundation of Metro Detroit and The Hillel Foundation of the University of Michigan.

Sponsorships opportunities for individuals, groups and organizations are available in any amount. Event participants also are welcomed for the dramas, the readings and certain kinds of technical assistance. Those
interested should contact Lederman at hylederman@wowway.com  or (248) 561-0559 or Kaplan at attorneykaplan@aol.com   or (248) 410-0919.

 Temple Beth El is located at 7400 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills. Admission is free to all attendees, and no registration required. For more information about the event or Professor Liviu Librescu, visit www.LibrescuTribute.com. 

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