As South Africans Celebrate Nelson Mandela's Life, Expat in South Florida Sees "A Renewed Spirit in the Country"

By Gilma Avalos
|  Monday, Dec 9, 2013  |  Updated 7:50 PM EDT
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Derek Lubie moved to the U.S. from South Africa 17 years ago, but these days he wishes he were back home. NBC 6's Gilma Avalos reports.

Derek Lubie moved to the U.S. from South Africa 17 years ago, but these days he wishes he were back home. NBC 6's Gilma Avalos reports.

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Derek Lubie moved to the U.S. from South Africa 17 years ago, but these days he wishes he were back home.

In the aftermath of Nelson Mandela’s death, the South Florida man is living vicariously online as he views the celebrations of Mandela’s life taking place in his native country.

"I wish I was there. There's a renewed spirit in the country, I think, a unification of the people,” said Lubie, who is a North Miami businessman.

That coming together is happening through photos like one shared on his Facebook feed by friends joining in on the jubilation.

"People are taking the time to go out, visit, contribute to the memorials – and all over the cities are these memorials,” Lubie said.

Tens of thousands of people, including almost 100 heads of state, are expected to attend the memorial service for the former South African president in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Online, a friend of Lubie's also posted a candid moment – a hug shared by people of different generations and different races. That seemed impossible when Lubie was growing up, when apartheid was the norm. As a child, that was the only life he knew.

He said he was “unaware of the injustices that were perhaps were so apparent."

The South African expat moved to the U.S. 17 years ago, after the country transitioned to democracy and chose Mandela as its first democratically elected president.

In 2012 Lubie was able to share South Africa’s dark past and how far it has come with his teenaged daughters, taking them to the Apartheid Museum and its local orphanage – a tangible moment of Mandiba's legacy that he could share.

"He's left a legacy, something that will be with us forever. And I hope that (the) current administration, future administrations will be able to live on that legacy he's left behind. And continue along the path of democracy and the Rainbow Nation,” Lubie said.

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