Most people greet loved ones at the airport with “welcome home” and a hearty hug. Not Nada Basir. Not this day.
Instead, the Canadian Libyan Council vice-president was planning to touch off her husband's homecoming from their shared homeland Thursday with a dark but no less celebratory message: a bold black and white sign that read, simply: “He's Dead!”
“We are in great shock and great happiness,” Ms. Basir said of the news that long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi had been killed by rebel forces near his hometown of Sirte, his regime's last remaining stronghold.
“There's complete excitement that we can close this very dark chapter in Libya's history and move on.”
Libyans across Canada phoned friends, planned parties and openly rejoiced over the demise of the man who maintained an iron rule over their homeland for 42 years, and whom they blame for plunging the country into a state of abject poverty and social decay.
Col. Gadhafi's death marked the end of a violent political drama that has absorbed expatriate Libyans around the world for months, ever since the Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East reached Libya and touched off a civil war that led to Col. Gadhafi's ouster two months ago.
But the mystery surrounding his whereabouts fostered uncertainty about Libya's future and made it all but impossible for the National Transitional Council to establish an interim government.
Ahmed Mansour was jarred awake when an ecstatic friend phoned Thursday to share the news of Col. Gadhafi's death. When he filled his wife in on the latest developments, she promptly rushed off to enjoy the moment with friends living down the street.
Sufyan Maghur also made a detour to celebrate with his mother before heading into work.
Mr. Maghur, the council's official representative to Canada, said the news still felt surreal to a generation who grew up in the shadow cast by an oppressive regime.
“It's something I lived with for the whole of my life. I was born one year before he took power,” Mr. Maghur said.
“We knew he was going to go, but to have him gone, with all his advisers, it's just unbelievable.”
Libyans began organizing communal celebrations of Col. Gadhafi's downfall. Revellers are expected to gather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and Toronto's Dundas Square, with mosques holding more intimate celebrations of their own, Mr. Mansour said.
The parties reflect the realization among Libyans in Canada that a new era is finally at hand, Ms. Basir said. With Col. Gadhafi at large, the possibility of a return to power remained a live one, making it impossible to have faith in the promise of lasting change.
His death, she said, signals a new beginning for an oil-rich country that is still ranked among the poorest in the world.
Not all Libyans were feeling such unalloyed joy Thursday.
Ibrahim Momen, who helped organize solidarity rallies in Toronto as the Libyan civil war began, said he's disappointed that the former dictator won't be brought to justice before the people he tyrannized.
“If he was alive, justice would be delivered,” Mr. Momen said.
He would be on trial, and he has to answer all that he has done for the last 42 years against the Libyan people and in the other world countries. I don't think he's a Libyan criminal, he's a global criminal.“
Most, however, are simply glad he's gone.
“When I see Gadhafi, all I think about is the hundreds of thousands who have been affected by him — the 30,000 people that have been killed, the women who have been raped, and the orphans that have been created because of his brutality,” Ms. Basir said.
“As sad as death is, I think this is good for the world.”