NEW YORK A world-class scientist and Holocaust survivor is being remembered as a hero who saved his students from the rampaging gunman at Virginia Tech University.
Professor Liviu Librescu (LIHV'-yoo lih-BRES'-koo) blocked the doorway to his classroom with his body so his students could escape the gunman by jumping out classroom windows. The 76-year-old teacher was shot to death.
At a funeral service in New York today, his actions were called "the ultimate sacrifice, and the ultimate goodness."
Librescu had spent 20 years in Virginia as an internationally respected aeronautics engineer and lecturer. During World War Two, he had been held in a labor camp after his native Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews were killed during the war.
Authorities sifting through the deranged ramblings and disturbing images of a Virginia college student who carried out the worst act of gun violence in the nation’s history concluded Thursday that the material, which was sent this week to NBC News, added little to their investigation.
After killing two people in a Virginia university dormitory — but before he slaughtered 30 more in a classroom building — the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, mailed NBC News a long, profanity-laced diatribe and dozens of photographs and videos Monday morning, boasting, “When the time came, I did it. I had to.”
Cho, 23, a senior English major at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, killed 32 people in two attacks before taking his own life.
“While there was some marginal value to the package we received, the fact of the matter is ... the package merely confirms what we already knew,” Col. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of Virginia State Police, the lead agency investigating the shootings, said in a brief statement Thursday.
That turned attention to NBC’s decision to broadcast the material and to publish more of it on MSNBC.com.
Flaherty said he appreciated NBC’s cooperation with investigators, but he said he was “rather disappointed in the editorial decision to broadcast these disturbing images.”
“I’m sorry that you were all exposed to these images,” he said.
NBC News President Steve Capus said Thursday that he understood that many people would disagree with his decision, acknowledging that “there is no way to look at without being profoundly upset, and it is incredibly disturbing.”
“Ever since we heard the first reports about what happened on that campus, we all wanted to know — and I’m not sure we’ll ever fully understand — why this happened, but I do think this is as close as we’ll come to having a glimpse inside the mind of a killer,” he said on NBC’s TODAY program.
Careful handling by NBC
Capus said in an interview with MSNBC.com that the package arrived in New York late Tuesday night and was delivered to NBC headquarters about 11 a.m. Wednesday. The letter carrier noticed that it bore a return address from Blacksburg and alerted NBC security officers.
The material is “hard to follow ... disturbing, very disturbing,” Capus said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Cho’s name was not on the package; instead, the return address said it came from “A Ishmael.” Investigators said Cho’s body was found Monday with the words “Ismael Ax” scrawled on his arm.
In the 1,800-word manifesto-like statement, Cho expresses rage, resentment and a desire to get even — but with whom, he does not say.
On another of the videos, he laments: “I didn’t have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run ... It’s not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you f---, I did it for them.”
And it mentions “martyrs like Eric and Dylan” — apparently a reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenagers who killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., eight years ago this Friday.
Gunman’s message hits campus
In Blacksburg, students reacted with disgust and disbelief to news of the materials.