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THE HERO PROF; THE VIRGINIA TECH MASSACRE Teacher, 76, died blocking door so students could flee maniac.

Byline: By MARTIN FRICKER in Virginia and STEWART MACLEAN

A HERO professor sacrificed his life to save students from university gunman Cho Seung-Hui - by blocking a classroom door with his body as the maniac tried to storm in.

Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu, 76, was gunned down at point-blank range after throwing himself into the path of crazed Cho, 23.

But the maths and engineering professor's courage bought his students precious seconds in which they scrambled through a window.

His son Joe Librescu said yesterday: "My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee. Students started opening windows and jumping out.

"He was a hero. By blocking the door with his body he saved all the students who were in the classroom."

Alec Calhoun, 20, was one of those who fled from room 204 at Virginia Tech University.

He said: "I must have been the eighth or ninth person who jumped and I think I was the last.

"Before I jumped I turned around and looked at the professor, who stayed behind to block the door. He had been killed."

Classmate Richard Mallalieu said: "At first I tried to convince myself they weren't gunshots.

"But it became evident pretty quickly what was going on.

"I hid behind a desk while Dr Librescu held the door closed. Then we went to the windows."

Dr Librescu's wife Marlena, a fellow Holocaust survivor, was initially told he had survived the horror - in which South Korean Cho shot dead 32 students and staff before killing himself.

She spent hours frantically driving from hospital to hospital seeking news of her husband before eventually learning he was dead.

Marlena, who dropped Dr Librescu at work just an hour before the shooting began, said: "I lost my best friend. He was a great person, who loved teaching more than anything.

"I looked for him in the hospitals all day but I didn't find him."

Dr Librescu's daughter-in-law Ayala said: "He has been teaching there for 20 years and was a senior, world-renowned lecturer." As a child Librescu narrowly avoided being transported to a Nazi death camp with his family in 1944 when a planned shipment of Jews from Romania was cancelled.

In the post war years he became one of the Romanian communist regime's top scientists - and when he attempted to emigrate to Israel the government blocked the move.

He and Marlena were allowed to go in 1978 but only after the then-Israeli PM Menachem Begin appealed to Romania's President Ceausescu.

In 1986 the couple went on a sabbatical to the United States and have lived there ever since.

In a tragic twist, Dr Librescu died on the day his adopted homeland of Israel officially commemorates the Holocaust. Sons Aryeh and Joe are now preparing to take their father's body back to Israel for burial.

Last night fellow lecturer Eddie Kerr told of his horror.

Mr Kerr, from Derry, who has taught drama and creative writing at Virginia Tech for the past six years, said: "I am just stunned."

The Ulsterman spent yesterday trying to make contact with friends.

He added: "I was up most of the night trying to speak to people on the phone but the lines were jammed.

"I had worked with these people for three to four weeks a year at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.

"I hope to return around August.

I'm not sure what will happen now in terms of that but I definitely want to go back.

"From what I am hearing via emails it turns out they were quite close to the building where the second attack happened and they said they heard gunfire which lasted for about 40 minutes.

"I know the campus very well. I really and sincerely hope students I know and have taught are not among the dead."

Mr Kerr said whenever he had taught on the campus everyone felt safe and secure.

He added: "There is a lovely atmosphere, very education-focused with a lot of security."

A number of students from the University of Ulster have also spent time at Virginia Tech as part of their studies for academic purposes.

A University of Ulster spokesman said: "We began an affiliation with Virginia Tech around three years ago.

"We have no staff or students over there at the moment."

Other Virginia Tech staff members killed in the rampage include Professor GV Loganathan, Kevin Granata and Professor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak.

martin.fricker@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Ryan Clark Biology student, 22, nicknamed Stack, was shot in head for intervening as Cho killed first victim Emily Hilscher; Matt Le Porte Second-year politics student, 20, was a part-time life guard and dreamed of a life in the military; Amanda Cahall; Reema Samaha The first year student from Virginia was a keen member of the university's Contemporary Dance Ensemble group; Emily Hilscher Thought to be first victim in 7.15am shooting, Emily, 18, was a keen horse rider from Virginia.; Semeon Seyfou; Ross Alameddine Second-year English student, 20, "always knew the right thing to do or say to cheer anyone one up," friends said; Maxine Turner Chemistry student, 22, got up early to study for finals and was looking forward to graduating next month; Betsey Horowitz; Henry Lee First-year computer engineering student had only left his home nearby a few months earlier; Jessica Wilson; Mademba Beye; Jarrett Lane Third-year engineering student, 22, died after being shot in the chest as he listened to a lecture; Kelly Boito; Mary Reed Nineteen-year-old born in South Korea into an Air Force family. Struggled with the vast size of college campus; Caitlin Hammaren French and international studies student, 19, from New York. Worked as mentor to classmates; Daniel Perez Foreign student, 21, from Peru, wanted to study French. Was in French class when he was shot; Ananeya Abebe; Brian Bluhm Civil engineering graduate worked as a teaching assistant while studying water resources; SACRIFICE: Prof Liviu Librescu; GUN RAMPAGE: Cho Seung-Hui; DEAD: Prof GV Loganathan, and teacher Jamie Bishop; VICTIMS: Kevin Granata, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 18, 2007
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