April 17, 2007 / 4:53 PM / in 10 years

Heroic acts bright spot amid U.S. campus tragedy

BLACKSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) - Amid the horror at Virginia Tech were tales of heroism during the rampage, including an older professor -- himself a Holocaust survivor -- who gave his life to protect his students.

Romanian-born Liviu Librescu, an Israeli citizen, moved two decades ago to the United States where he taught in the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Although he was 76, long past the usual retirement age, he was still teaching at Virginia Tech on Monday when chaos erupted in Norris Hall, the campus building where a gunman identified as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, opened fire, killing 30 people before committing suicide.

Students described how Librescu barricaded the door against Cho so that they could escape by jumping out the classroom's second-floor window. Some broke legs in the fall, but they survived. Librescu was shot dead during the rampage.

An impromptu shrine to the dead professor was set up on the campus, with flowers and his picture.

"He was an exceptionally tolerant man who mentored scholars from all over our troubled world," Ishwar Puri, his department head, said in a written statement released to the media.

Students who survived the massacre at Norris Hall spoke of school janitors who, as Cho opened fire upstairs, ran to help others instead of saving themselves.

"The janitors came running through, and told everyone to get out," said Nick Vozza, 20, of Burke, Virginia, who was in the Norris Hall basement when Cho began his attack two floors above.

In a German class upstairs, a few students tried to barricade the door against the onslaught of bullets, and then tried to help their injured classmates while they waited for help, Trey Perkins, 20, told Fox News.

Of 15 students in his class, he said only about six came out alive.

Many students wore the school's colours of orange and maroon in a sign of solidarity on Tuesday. Many said they were shocked and exhausted, as the names of the victims began to trickle out, and they faced an onslaught of media and investigators.

But they said they were heartened by the stories of heroism.

"It's one of those things where every little thing you do can save somebody's life," Vozza said. "The only thing we can do to get through this thing is to be nice to each other."

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