Va. Tech Professor Remembers Colleagues
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The people absorbing the news at the Virginia Tech shootings include Dr. Ishwar Puri. He's the department head of engineering science and mathematics at Virginia Tech. He was a colleague of two professors who are among the dead in the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Dr. Puri is on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.
Dr. ISHWAR PURI (Virginia Tech): Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Could you just tell us how you have spent the last 24 hours?
Dr. PURI: Well, it's been very difficult. Our department is actually called engineering science and mechanics. We've lost two very distinguished and beloved colleagues. Several of our students were injured. The building that we worked in was violated. There were I think 31 fatalities in the building, on the floor where we all worked. So it's been a very difficult time.
INSKEEP: Were you there for the shooting?
Dr. PURI: Yes, I was.
INSKEEP: And were you in any - in the line of fire?
Dr. PURI: No. Several of us barricaded ourselves. There was an alarm sent out by a faculty member, Romy Sumatra(ph), and our associate department head, Scott Case, were very brave. They went down the hall, they asked us to lock our doors. Several people hid behind filing cabinets and behind desks. And so it transpired.
INSKEEP: When you came out from those places, you learned that two of your colleagues had been killed along with a number of students. And I want to try to remember those two colleagues. Who was Kevin Granata?
Dr. PURI: Kevin Granata was a fine individual. He was one of the top five biomechanics researchers on cerebral palsy in the world. More importantly, he was a good husband and a fine father. He was a scholar of great international reputation, one who was going to be…
INSKEEP: Where was he from?
Dr. PURI: Kevin grew up in the United States, I believe in Ohio. He was in the military. And then he did some orthopedics, worked in various hospitals. And then he found the call to serve, to be a researcher and serve higher education and came to Virginia Tech.
INSKEEP: I'm impressed that you describe research in the way that people might have described his previous military service or even the ministry, finding the call to serve.
Dr. PURI: Well, it is really; it's a call to discovery, it's honesty. He addressed cerebral palsy and various other issues in biomechanics with great integrity. He handled them, and ultimately the work that he did will make the world better as we understand the causes of various diseases, how people trip and fall, what we might do to make better workplaces in terms of human locomotion and stability.
INSKEEP: Very briefly, who was Liviu Librescu, the other colleague who was killed?
Dr. PURI: Liviu Librescu had a great personal freedom. He was born in Rumania and he grew up under Communist rule. He wanted to leave Rumania, and they - he was told that in order to leave Rumania he would have to disappear. He worked in an institute, and for several years he did literally that, he disappeared. He didn't published, and finally he got his exit visa. His thirst for freedom brought him to the United States. He was a giant, one of the most highly (unintelligible) scholars in the area of aeroelasticity. His work has helped us make better airplanes, better composite materials.
Both Liviu and Kevin were dedicated teachers. They mentored large number of students. I've received messages from all over the world, from the PhD. students for professors (unintelligible) one person wrote back saying that he felt he had lost his father.
INSKEEP: Dr. Ishwar Puri, Virginia Tech University, thanks very much.
Dr. PURI: Thanks.
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
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