Massacre and Heroism

Everywhere I go today I see flags flying at half-mast. The AP has published the names of 29 of the victims of the horrific shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday. I am moved by the way they’re verifying their information: “So-and-so, of such-and-such a place, according to…” and then they give the source of their information.

It’s certainly responsible reporting, particularly as it suggests that the AP did its own information gathering (perhaps largely off the web, who knows?), and they are being careful to cite/document their sources. (“Whoever repeats a thing in the name of the one who said it brings redemption into the world.” See my posting about this teaching. It’s not just about plagiarism and giving credit where it’s due, it’s about managing rumor-mongering.)

But it’s also very moving. Because it links every person to someone else, or connects them to a community of which they are a part. Each entry on the list hints at a story. It’s sad to read, and far more powerful than a list of names of “lost souls” unconnected.

(Perhaps that’s why I read the lists of the dead on the 9/11 airplanes looking for familes and other groups who were travelling together: so the dead wouldn’t just be a name, and I could get a tiny sense of how their lives and their deaths are connected to the web of their family/friends/community.)

It’s also thought-provoking to see who speaks for whom. The reporters include:

  • Mothers, fathers, stepmother, brother, aunt, grandmother, the family, family friends
  • Department heads at Virginia tech and folks from other universities, domestic and foreign
  • The Detroit Tigers and friends (I wonder what kind of connection this was)
  • A county coroner, a former pastor, a funeral home
  • High school officials
  • Foreign ministry spokespeople — several of the students were from other coutries

The dead on this list range in age from 18 to 76. The 76-year-old, Liviu Lebrescu, was a lecturer in engineering science and mathematics. I deduce from the name that he was Romanian. But I couldn’t remember “Romania” (just knew it was the most isolated Communist country in Europe even as the Iron Curtain was falling) so I googled “Liviu Lebrescu” …

…and it turns out that he was a Holocaust survivor, married and with at least one son in Liviu Lebrescu, photo from Virginia TechTel Aviv, who barricaded the door with his body and enabled the students in his room to escape.

See this article in The Jerusalem Post. And more about him here.

To survive the Shoah and learn from it the absolute duty of saving lives — this is kedushah, holiness in action.  Mr. Lebrescu truly died al kiddush HaShem, in sanctification of God’s name.

God bless him and all the others. Y’hey zichram baruch: May their memories be full of blessing.