MELISSA BLOCK, host: When word spread today that Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed, Libyans all over the world rejoiced. Their 42-year long nightmare was over. The brutal violence that many had suffered at the hands of the regime, the prison sentences, the missing relatives, it would all finally be done.

Sarah Burshan is one of those celebrating. She knows what the violence has been like. Her relatives had been put in jail and killed. Her parents fled Libya before she was born, but they've always hoped to return to their homeland.

Sarah has this essay on what her family felt when they heard the news.

SARAH BURSHAN: Thursday, October 20th is a day I will never forget. My brother woke me up at 5 a.m. He kept repeating, they got him. They caught Gadhafi. I was so dazed. I did not believe it. A world without Gadhafi? It seemed too good to be true.

I was born in Kansas, but I have always been a Libyan. Before I was born, my parents were active in the opposition. When my father finished high school, he knew that the only options for those opposed to Gadhafi were jail or death. He chose instead to leave the country. After he left, he and my mom were married. It was a big wedding, and all their friends and relatives attended. The only person missing was the groom.

This morning, my whole family was speechless. I called my father, who was so excited he couldn't think of anything to say to me. Later, he was interviewed on Al-Jazeera. Do you feel like you're dreaming? they asked. It's too good to be a dream, he replied.

This has been a long process. We were hopeful on February 17th when the protests began. My mom began to shop for new furniture. I told her this was no time to redo our house. But she told me, these things are for our home in Libya.

We called our relatives in Libya. My uncle cried on the phone: You can come home. You can come home. He doesn't know his nieces and nephews. He doesn't know his own siblings. They have lived in a different world for over 20 years.

But then, things turned violent. We heard reports of Gadhafi's crimes against the Libyan people. Our hope began to fade. Then reports that Gadhafi's sons had been caught turned out to be false. Each time we got bad news, we felt that our hope of a free Libya was getting farther away. So when I called my grandmother in Libya today, she was crying, but this time with happiness.

I'm taking a year off from school this year to help out and volunteer in Libya. A year ago, moving home would have seemed crazy. Who would want to live in a country run by a dictator, where the youth have no dreams? But today, it doesn't seem ridiculous. In fact, it's just starting to seem possible.

BLOCK: Sarah Burshan lives near Chicago. She recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and she plans to go to Libya later this year. Her father is already there. He's serving as a member of the Transitional National Council in a town southwest of Tripoli.

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