Now I don’t often talk about my personal life, however, I will say, I am to all intents and purposes a teacher (I cover for teachers when they are ill or away). There have been over the past couple of years teachers who have acted above and beyond their positions, the teachers who have protected pupils during campus shootings come to mind such as Liviu Librescu. I know when I step into a classroom, my duty is firstly to teach the students, and secondly it is to look after my students well-being (and dependent on the circumstances these two can switch). However I am not sure deep down I have the strength of moral fibre to do what these people have done. I shall for today’s posting pick two men, one British, and one a naturalised American, but both as brave as the other.
Firstly Liviu Librescu; a brave man over and over.
April 16th 2007: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Dr Librescu, was taking a class that he had taught many times before, when he heard the sound of gunshots. Something that no doubt he would have been familiar with and probably stirred up memories he had hoped to forget. However as they sounds drew closer he helped his pupils to make their escape through the window of his class room, as they did so the gunman attempted to enter the room, without a hesitation for his own safety Dr Librescu, blocked the doorway with his body, taking the brunt of the gunman’s hail of bullets. Only when his entire student body had escaped did he allow himself to relent and collapsed dead, with five bullet wounds in his back. Bravery and self-sacrifice shown beyond all doubt, and I have read of many brave men yet this has to be one of the bravest things I have read.
“The revelation that Dr. Liviu Librescu blocked the door of his classroom in Norris Hall on the morning of April 16 so that his students could escape through the windows came as no surprise to his family, friends, and colleagues. The renowned aeronautical engineering educator and researcher had demonstrated profound courage throughout the 76 years of his life.
As a child in Romania during World War II, Liviu was confined to a Jewish ghetto, while his father was sent to a forced labor camp. After surviving the Holocaust, Liviu moved forward with stalwart determination to become an engineer.
During the rise of the Communist Party in Romania in the 1960s, Liviu earned his undergraduate aeronautical engineering degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest and completed his Ph.D. at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics, Academy of Science of Romania. He achieved academic prominence, but in order to have his papers on aerodynamics published anywhere except at the academy during Communist rule, he had to work in secrecy and—at great risk—smuggle papers to publishers in other countries.
Dr. Librescu and his wife wanted to leave Romania for Israel, but obtaining the requisite visas was a difficult and lengthy process. After three years—and with the help of the government of Israel—the family finally was allowed to immigrate in 1978.
After serving as a professor for seven years at Tel-Aviv University, Dr. Librescu accepted a one-year position as visiting professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM). The family decided to settle in Blacksburg in 1985, and Liviu became one of Virginia Tech’s most respected educators and researchers in the field of aeronautical engineering.” – http://www.weremember.vt.edu/biographies/librescu.html
The second story of bravery is that of John Clements, a UK teacher, who showed his bravery not in the heat of a violent campus rampage, but in the midst of a fire, on a school trip in a ski resort in Italy.
His citation reads:
“John Clements (Deceased), Teacher, Sherrardswood School, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Mr. Clements was one of a party of six adults and thirty-seven children who were staying at a ski-resort in Northern Italy on an eight day visit. At about 4 a.m. on 12th April 1976, smoke was noticed and Mr. Clements was one of those who quickly raised the alarm and ordered the children to go down-stairs. A number of children were led to safety through dense smoke by other members of the staff who, having got out of the hotel, then helped further children to escape from a first floor balcony to the ground. Meanwhile, Mr. Clements had climbed down from a third floor balcony on the West side of the building to a second floor balcony; he then reached the first floor where he organised a number of children into small groups and assisted them to escape by means of a rope he had improvised from knotted sheets. When the room was evacuated Mr. Clements refused to leave the hotel and went back into the building which in a matter of minutes was burning fiercely. He was seen on at least two occasions to go back into the hotel after carrying or dragging people out, and he ignored repeated attempts to restrain him. Mr. Clement was finally overcome by fumes and he died in the fire. Mr. Clements displayed outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty in circumstances of extreme danger. He showed no regard for his personal safety when he remained in the fiercely burning hotel in his endeavours to save those still trapped by the fire.”
Both men showed a remarkable self determination and self-sacrifice, in different circumstances. These men dug deep and showed themselves to be true hero’s in the fullest sense of the word.