Liviu Lebrescu died yesterday at Virginia Tech. He urged his students to escape through the second floor windows while he blocked the door with his body. They all escaped, but the he was shot to death by Cho Seung-Hui. Lebrescu survived the Holocaust as a Romanian Jew and later managed to escape from Ceausescu’s dictatorship to Israel. The Dean of the engineering department described him as, “an exceptionally tolerant man”.
Again we ask what it is that makes people perform the heroic deeds in these situations. Did his survival of the Nazi persecution of the Jews lead to a personality that understood the importance of life? Did he feel he had lived a long life and wanted that for his students? Did he perform daily heroic actions that became a habit?