Religion & Beliefs

Self-preservation is Not Weakness (But Neither is it Strength)

I haven’t posted about the shootings at Virginia Tech myself, because Tamar did, and Monica did, and honestly… what can one say?  What can one even feel at such a time?  Numb?  Scared?  No words seem adequate, and so I … Read More

By / April 19, 2007

I haven’t posted about the shootings at Virginia Tech myself, because Tamar did, and Monica did, and honestly… what can one say?  What can one even feel at such a time? 

Numb?  Scared? 

No words seem adequate, and so I didn’t waste them. But then yesterday, in the space of a few hours, I read both this amazing story about the holocaust survivor who saved the lives of his students: 

Born in Romania, Librescu survived the Holocaust and the brutal regime of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, arriving in Israel in 1978. He died on the day that his adopted country, and Jews worldwide, marked Yom Hashoah, the international day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust…. Students in Librescu's class say he barricaded the classroom door as the gunman advanced, providing time for students to escape through the windows.

 And then this horrifying response to the amazing story:

College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Meanwhile, an old man hurled his body at the shooter to save others.

And now I want to respond.

Shame on the author of this terrible story, Nathanael Blake!  What a complete rat-bastard!  It’s so easy to sit back and judge a bunch of frightened kids, isn’t it?  It’s so easy to go sifting through this difficult world, looking for people to blame when we’re frightened… instead of finding a way to make things better… 

This, this base instinct to point a finger, is worse than the instinct for self-preservation.  This instinct to blame makes the world worse.  For the record, I’m not remotely ashamed for the kids at their “physical peak” who ducked through the window.  It’s not shameful to be average, to be human.  Most of us would do just that.   

But I’m incredibly amazed and impressed with Liviu Librescu, who was more than a man. And I’m reminded of what we should all be striving to accomplish with our lives.  He didn’t just “hurl his body”.  He hurled a lot more than his body.  He stood as an example of how physical limitations mean very little when resolve is strong.  When faith and need are both present.   

And in the middle of this media frenzy about how a fucked up kid went batshit and committed heinous crimes, I think we should spend a little longer thinking about how a man who survived several sets of the most heinous crimes himself, a survivor, a man who was physically weak, showed us that spirit will always be stronger than flesh. A confession:  

All this last year, flying with my son, I’ve found myself thinking over and over, “If something terrible happened, if there was a terrorist, I’d let someone else step forward. I’d crouch down and kiss the baby and pray. Because I’m a mother now.” I truly have thought this!  Consciously.  Whenever the flight attendants have started their spiel about how, if you’re in an exit row and you don’t think you could perform the duties that entails, you should ask to move, I’ve always made sure I wasn’t in row 10. I’ve actually asked to be moved.  I’m that person.  

But that’s bullshit.  I’m calling triple bullshit on myself right now.  Because  a 76 year old man has proven something to me, about weakness and responsibility. And I want to thank him.  I want to take a minute in the middle of the sadness to be grateful that we can all still learn, become better, find something amazing in this horror.  The bar has been raised.  Being an old man doesn’t make you weak.   The question is… will the rest of us be strong enough to learn something from such a man?