Graduate student Waleed Mohammed Shaalan was planning on bringing his Egyptian family back to Virginia Tech but a rampaging gunman prevented that. The young man lost his life but was credited Thursday with acting to save a fellow student.

The day before Monday’s massacre, Shaalan called home and said he intended to visit Egypt next month and then return to Virginia with his wife and 15-month-old son who had been living in Egypt, his parents said Thursday.

The family got another call two days later. The Egyptian Embassy in Washington told them Shaalan had been one of the 32 victims in the deadliest school shooting in modern U.S. history.

“I talked to him over the internet Sunday,” his mother Saadiya Abdel-Mageed Ali said in a soft and anguished voice. “He asked me to move closer to the Web camera so he can see my face better. ‘I want to see your face mama!’ he kept saying.”

Shaalan, 32, had been at Virginia Tech since August studying for a Ph.D. in civil engineering. He was ambitious, saying he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Ahmed Zewail, an Egyptian who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1999, said his father, Mohammed Shaalan, 65.

“I am talking to you now and I am still in disbelief. I lost the most precious person in my life,” Mohammed Shaalan told The Associated Press by telephone from his home in the Nile Delta town of Zagazig. “He used to tell me that he wants to be someone like Nobel winner Ahmed Zewail.”

Randy Dymond, a civil engineering professor, said Shaalan was credited with distracting gunman Cho Seung-Hui to save the life of a fellow student.


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