(CNN) -- Hassan Addahoumi fled Libya in the late 1970s, driven from his homeland by the hard-line tactics of Moammar Gadhafi.
More than 30 years later, his son has returned and is watching what could be the longtime leader's collapse.
"He's going to be part of the history," Addahoumi said about his son, Sammi, who is in the rebel hub of Benghazi. "This is our dream come true."
Addahoumi spoke to CNN from his home in Columbia, South Carolina, where he said he was glued to news about Libya.
The nearly 42-year rule of Gadhafi appeared on the verge of collapse early Monday, with rebel supporters making it to the same Tripoli square where regime loyalists had congregated for months.
Addahoumi said he left his country after studying law in Benghazi.
"The regime was very, very tough," he said. "If you stayed there, you had to be in either the prison or the cemetery."
Over the years, Addahoumi said he has returned to Libya from time to time and that he wishes he could be there now.
"I wish I could be part of this history," he said.
A part of him is.
Addahoumi's son, Sammi, sent CNN an iReport from Benghazi that showed video of large, boisterous crowds in the city's Freedom Square as developments played on a large screen. He also spoke to CNN by phone.
"The spirits are quite high," said Sammi, 28, a deli manager. "Everyone is expecting Tripoli to fall."
He said he has spent time off and on in Libya since 2005. Every summer, he tries to spend at least a month there, he said.
Watching the uprising, which he called "42 years in the making," Sammi said he was filled with joy.
"It's exhilarating," he said. "And it's also a lot of anticipation ... will Libya stay together?"
An ocean away, his father voiced confidence. He said Libyans have the resources they need to build the country and that they will do it, piece by piece.
"This is the best thing that could have happened to us," Addahoumi said. "Libya is going to be a new nation."
CNN's Greg Botelho and Dana Ford contributed to this report