Oprah: I marvel that you remained so resilient in the face of such terror.
Paul: You would have been strong enough to do the same thing.
Oprah: Weren't you afraid for your life, or were you secure because you're mostly Hutu?
Paul: Here's what we have to make clear: The million people who were killed included both Hutus and Tutsis. Because the president was a Hutu from the north, all Hutus elsewhere in the country were considered opposition.
Oprah: After you looked out to see your neighbors' machetes dripping with blood, you decided to hide people.
Paul: That was on April 7, 1994. By the end of the day, I had 26 people in my house.
Oprah: Why did they come to you?
Paul: I have always wondered—and I have never found an answer. Maybe they trusted me. When I got a chance to evacuate, I took them with me as my own family.
Oprah: The day you took everyone to the Hotel Mille Collines, where you'd once been the manager, someone put a gun to your face…
Paul: He was a Tutsi army captain sent by the new government that was put up on April 9. They decided to take over the hotel. The manager who'd been working there had already fled.
Oprah: Why did the army captain come after you?
Paul: Because I'd gotten hold of the keys to the hotel cellar and all the unoccupied rooms. The government wanted those rooms and supplies.
Oprah: But the captain also ordered you to shoot your family!
Paul: Yes. And this guy wasn't joking. All along the road there were dead bodies; some missing their heads, others with their bellies open. I was speechless. He handed me a gun, and I told him I didn't know how to use it.
Oprah: I'm surprised he bought that.
Paul: He didn't. But I also told him that I understood him. "You're tired," I said. "You're thirsty. You're stressed by the war. I don't blame you for this. But we can find other solutions. Your enemy isn't the old man driving my car or this baby over here."
Oprah: But Paul, I'm surprised he'd even listen to you after slaughtering so many!
Paul: I've noticed that any person who can open his or her mouth and talk to you can also listen to you. This man did. When I saw that the appeal to morality wasn't working, I offered him cash. Then I told him I needed to go to the hotel safe to get it.
Oprah: You kept 1,268 people alive in that hotel.
Paul: For 78 days. In a hotel designed to hold 200 people.
Oprah: You've said the only thing that saved those people was words—not money, not liquor, not the UN. Just ordinary words directed against the darkness. How did you bargain for those people's lives?
Paul: In Rwandan culture, we say that two men can never sit down and deal without a drink. So I'd always bring a drink to sit and talk. And certainly, any person who came to talk with me arrived at a positive conclusion.
We Hear You!