BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (CBS) — For Libyan-Americans in the Chicago area, the killing of Muammar Qaddafi was cause for celebration on Thursday.

But it was also a time for reflection on decades of iron-fisted rule by a dictator who tortured and murdered so many family members.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports that, for Libyans living in southwest suburban Bridgeview, hope is helping to ease the pain of loss and lives ruined.

The Chicago area’s Libyan community is admittedly small – barely 300 strong – but it is also very tight-knit and many have been reaching out to one another on Thursday.

Several Libyan families gathered at a home in Bridgeview to try to come to terms with the killing of a man they called a tyrant.

At the Aduib home, they proudly display Libya’s flag amid a sense of joy and celebration.

“They’re celebrating. But not because for the death of Qadaffi, but for their freedom,” Abdulraoof Aduib said.

Friends and family have been gathering all day, to follow events online and contemplate the meaning of Qadaffi’s death for themselves and their relatives in the homeland.

“You can’t imagine … anybody can’t imagine what I’m feeling from my heart,” Abbas Ibrahim said.

Over and over, those at the celebration used the word “free.”

“It means so much for me because I can actually go home now. But for Libyans all over the world, they can actually live free,” Aduib said.

Jamila Gwari said, “I am looking to a Libya, a free Libya, a rich Libya and a happy Libya.”

Ahmed Alsheikhi said, “It’s the first day of my freedom, the first day I feel freedom as a freedom man.”

Their hopes also come with a sense of loss their own families have experienced.

“All of them get caught, get killed … has been killed from that death regime and that guy (Qaddafi),” Alsheikhi said.

But from the despair of the past comes their confidence in the future

“It is really the spring of the Arab world and a change for democracy, for human rights, for freedom,” Mohamed Aduib said.

Some of the Libyans at Thursday’s gathering in Bridgeview had been jailed for years in Libya, just for speaking their mind against Qaddafi. Others could never return to see their families because of what they had said and they were afraid they would face death.

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