CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Some Southern Illinois University students view the death of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as a sort of Independence Day for their homeland.
"I watch the news and call my family and everybody said this is true, he's gone," said Mohamed Abaid, a graduate student of Economics at SIU.
Their whole lives Abaid and fellow economics graduate student, Hussein Elkamel, say they Moammar Gadhafi's grip on Libya and its people seemed like something that would never end.
"When our revolution started in February, I was like 'I don't believe that will happen. Moammar Gadhafi will stop them. It is not like Tunisia or Egypt'," Abaid said.
"The first day, 15 February, most people in Libya didn't believe it because of the long dictatorship," said Elkamel. "For 42 years the only way to get this regime out of power was Gadhafi will die, naturally."
Elkamel and Abaid say for more than four decades, the Libyan people have lived in fear. They never spoke out or stepped out of line because they say one wrong step could have cost you your life.
"In 1984, I was a child, but my cousin was against Gadhafi," said Abaid. "The regime killed my cousin. They came to my house to search for him before they killed him. That made me scared of Gadhafi."
"The capture of Gadhafi and (his death) is very good for the people who were (born) within 42 years," said Elkamel. "They cannot believe they're safe if he still exists."
Now that the dictator is dead both men feel not only relief for their families back home, but hope for the future.
"I'm 100 percent sure Libya will be better than the last 42 years," said Abaid. "And from today, we will see Libya improving.
The two men plan to return to Libya after they complete their studies at SIU to help rebuild a nation ruled not by fear, but rather by its people.
"This is a great day for us," said Abaid. "I will remember this day. October 20, 2011."
Elkamel has a wife and daughter back home he's happy to know will be safe now that the fighting and Gadhafi's regime is over.
Abaid planned to marry his fiancée over the summer but the war postponed their plans. Now he says he'll marry next summer in a better Libya where his future children can grow up in peace.