“I told you it was going to be fun!” My dad’s idea of a good time was being among people calling for the end of a dictatorship with a chance of being shot anytime. I should have introduced my dad to YouTube; he would have found it more enjoyable. People kept coming in big numbers throughout the morning and in no time, I was shouting with the protestors as well, calling Geddaffi names and making remarks about his horrendous hair. It felt really liberating; I have never said a word about him in my life, even to myself. He seemed immortal and everyone was scared of him. The first time I realized that I hated him was when the government would shut down the 20 channels we had on TV and put a five hour Geddaffi speech on instead.
Around noon, a man stood on the courthouse stairs in front of the protestors and shouted in a microphone that today is the day they break into Alkatiba. Alkatiba was a huge military compound that belonged to Geddafi. It was located in the middle of the city and it was the place Geddaffi spent his time at whenever he visited Benghazi. No one knew what it really looked like inside. The only civilians, who had ever gone in, never came out. It was a complete mystery. Whenever I drove by it I wouldn’t even look at it, because those guards with the big machine gun would start staring at you and might even pull you over. Parking was not allowed anywhere near it and the houses nearby were not allowed roof access, so that no one can peek to see what was in that place.
It was finally time to leave and my dad and I got into my car. We decided to join a funeral procession that was driving to the cemetery to bury the people who were killed the day before. Alkatiba was in the way of the cemetery, so the protestors decided to drive in front of it to show their dissatisfaction toward the Government actions, which seemed like a good idea, until the guards started shooting the cars and luckily I managed to take a right and drove as fast as I could until we reached home.
The next morning, the protestors had finally decided to start breaking into Alkatiba. People were unarmed and the only thing they had were Molotov cocktails that they threw at the walls, but that was not enough. The guards were shooting anti-aircraft bullets from behind the walls; one bullet of those would split a person in two. For two days after, people were trying to get inside and I kept hearing about the numbers of people who were killed, some said between 200-400 and some said there were at least more than 1000. I couldn’t imagine how bad it was until I turned the TV on and Aljazeera was reporting from inside the hospital near my house. It was horrible, I remember seeing doctors crying while dead bodies were all over the floor. There was a lot of blood; people who lost body parts and some bodies were unrecognizable. That was when I realized how horrible Geddaffi was; I really hated him that moment and I was full of rage.
One of my neighbors saw me standing in front my house and asked me if I wanted to go and see what was happening in the military compound in my neighborhood. He said that I shouldn’t worry, they are only shooting people’s legs and that was enough to convince me. While we were walking to get there, I heard the sound of shattered glass inside someone’s house, then a woman crying out loud. I have learned that my neighbor was shot in the head while trying to get into Alkatiba. After my neighbor and I reached the military compound, I realized how much of a bad idea it was; people around me were falling like dominos and some were running each time they heard gun shots. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even run for my life, it was like time had stopped and my legs were not taking any orders from my brain. I didn’t know if I was scared, because I couldn’t feel a thing, then my neighbor took my hand and started running and after we ran for a while he asked me if I was stupid! (Says the guy who brought us here in the first place) In an hour the soldiers inside announced that they were going to surrender and people started storming in, but it was an ambush, because they shot everyone once they reached the doors. I have never come that near to death in my life. People used to tell me that before dying you remember every important thing you have in life. But not me, all I had in mind was “Fuck! I should’ve charged my phone, now it’s dead” …but at least I wasn’t.
That night it was all over, a big fraction of the military in Benghazi decided to rebel against the Government and they joined the people breaking into Alkhatiba. But one man made it all happen: a man in his 40s named Mahdi decided to put gas cylinders in his car and drove it into the walls of Alkatiba. A huge explosion was heard all over the city. Mahdi died inside of his car immediately and everyone stormed in. Mahdi was a calm person; people said that he couldn’t take seeing all of those young people dying in front of him and that led him to do what he did. Secret dungeons with people in them were found inside Alkatiba, lots of dead bodies and secret tunnels that led to different parts of the city, but not a single Geddaffi soldier was found; they all managed to escape. I drove my car that night with my father and young brother to Alkatiba; people were celebrating and crying tears of joy. Some dumb-fuck jumped into a tank from inside Alkatiba and started driving it, crushing parked cars, but at least mine was ok. I felt really overwhelmed. It only took 4 days to take Benghazi back from Geddaffi’s hands, the city was free, the independence flag was on every house, and the eastern side of Libya also all liberated in few days. I felt really satisfied; was that what freedom was supposed to feel like? I couldn’t tell, I have never had it. It’s a long way before the whole country is liberated, a lot of bloodshed and souls will be lost and I remember thinking, will I survive to see the end of it?