“This doesn’t look good at all” said my mom, while pointing at my dad’s beard. My father decided not to shave his face until the revolution was over, thinking it wasn’t going to take this long. It has been almost 4 months since this whole thing has started, and I was keeping myself busy. I was working as a cameraman for a news organization, a radio show host, a translator and an editor for a newspaper. It felt great to be part of something this big, we were in the news every single day and I remember when Bin Laden was killed, a reporter was going around asking Libyans what they thought about that and a man responded “Who cares! Fuck Bin Laden! He’s taking our spotlight”.
It’s May 5th and it is getting dark outside, which meant it was time to go to the freedom square. They had a big stage there with a podium on it where someone would come and announce the latest updates from the front lines. I took my mom and little sister there and I told them that I will come back to get them in two hours since I had some work to finish nearby. Less than an hour goes by before I heard a loud noise, which at first sounded like fireworks. I stepped out of the building and there was a dark cloud of smoke that could be seen from a distance and then I heard a man saying that a car had exploded in the Freedom Square. My thoughts were racing and I started running, leaving my work and car behind. Why did I leave them there by themselves, what if something happened to them, how am I supposed to live without my mom and sister or even live with the idea that I was the one who left them alone. I got there in 15 minutes and started running around trying to find them. A burning car was right by the stage and not far away from it, there was my sister who ran toward me while shouting “You missed the coolest thing ever!! I can’t wait to tell my friends”. Later on the news it was reported that Gaddafi’s men had planted a bomb in the car but luckily no one was killed.
Working at the radio was the most fun I had during the week. We would usually receive calls from people who would discuss current political issues, read us poems, or occasionally threaten to shoot us all, but the worst part was when people would call and ask us if they can sing. We stopped broadcasting after a while for some technical difficulties, and by that I mean someone came at night and burnt the whole place down. That wasn’t the end of it, two weeks after the incident I was driving around with a friend before we made a stop at some store and two minutes after I left the car, the back window was shattered. There were three bullets inside of the car and one of them hit the driver’s seat. I looked at my friend and said, “I guess you are driving now”. I told my parents the story when I got home and my dad was terrified, which was understandable since the window was going to cost a lot to replace.
The war was going on heavily on the other side of the country, NATO forces were bombing Gaddafi’s soldiers day and night but he would still come out on TV telling his supporters that the fight will go on until the end. Two of my aunts were living in cities controlled by Gaddafi and we hadn’t heard from them for the past 7 months. The photos that were coming out from the cities they lived in were devastating and although my father held to hope, I knew deep down that there was no way they were still alive. Everyone I knew back then has lost at least one person if not more as a result of the war and it wasn’t something to be sad about; after all they died fighting for our country and their families should feel proud or at least that was what I thought, since I had lost no one at that point. I went a few times to the front lines but only to film or out of curiosity. One of my friends was among the fighters and I took a photo with him then pointed out that if he dies, this will probably be my profile picture, he laughed and said we should take a better one then. Sadly, he’s still alive to this day.
It wasn’t until August when the rebels finally broke into the capital city of Tripoli and into Gaddafi’s compound. Up to this moment, people claimed that more than 50 thousand people were killed in the war but no one really knew. This was supposed to be the final day of war, but absolutely no one was inside Gaddafi’s compound. The whole country was full of secret tunnels that would take you from one area to another or sometimes, from one city to the next. Hundreds of men who were supposedly killed in the battlefield were liberated from inside of the compound and the whole city started celebrating, but not for long. My cousin was one of the first people to enter the capital and an RPG targeted his car. He passed away that day with 4 of his friends. As I said, I was desensitized to death at this point; my mind was set to one mode, which was winning, all I wanted was to win, to be free, to live my life like I should be and for that to happen, Gaddafi must be taken down.
It’s October now, 8 months since the revolution has started, and by this time, seeing politicians like John McCain, Sarkozy (Former president of France) and David Cameron (Former Prime Minster of the UK) was something normal, they’d come visit Benghazi and give emotional speeches in the freedom square and tell us how brave we were and that they will always stand with us, always…………….
At this point, everyone assumed the Gaddafi was already killed, no one had seen him in a few months and his oldest son was probably the one leading the battle. It wasn’t until the rebels entered Gaddafi’s hometown, Sirt (where one of my aunt’s lived) that the fighting there became the most vicious. So many died and then on the 20th, the city was liberated. That morning, I woke up to the sound of laughter mixed with crying, my dad was in front of the TV with my mom and kept saying “Come look at this now!” I came and there it was, a video of Gaddafi’s face covered in blood being pulled all around by the rebels, I couldn’t believe it, He looked old and scared, he looked nothing like the dictator we feared, the man we had to whisper his name around, the man who killed thousands of us, the devil was a real let down.
The whole world seemed to be happy for Libya; world leaders were congratulating us for the win and the country celebrated for a week. Both of my aunts finally called and were alive and told us all about the horror they had to go through. But it’s ok, I’m finally free, the future will be better, everything will be fine. We won; we won this war and the other side lost. We won this war against the other Libyans who disagreed with us. We don’t need to be one to be strong, all we need is for us to be right, we finally won the right to oppress them like they did to us and we shall rule and our country will be great.