Oprah: You were once given a chance to leave the hotel on a UN truck for a safer location, but you sent your family without you.
Paul: The day before, some of my people had come to me and said, "Listen, Paul, we've heard you're leaving us. If it's true, tell us so we can go to the roof and jump. We don't want to be killed with machetes." Later that day, I made a decision. I had to tell my wife and children that I would send them to a safe place—but without me.
Oprah: In the movie, you didn't tell them. So it happened differently in real life?
Paul: That's right. Tatiana and the children were angry that I wasn't going with them. I told them I was the only person who could negotiate for the people in the hotel. If I left, they would be killed, and I would never be a free man. I'd be a prisoner of myself, never able to eat and feel satisfied or go to bed and rest. I'd be a traitor. But imagine me escorting my wife and children to the evacuation trucks! There's real footage of that—we found it while we were filming Hotel Rwanda. It was heartbreaking. I wasn't sure I'd ever see my family again.
Oprah: Then their truck was intercepted.
Paul: They were ambushed and beaten. When Tatiana came back to me, she was lying in blood in the back of the truck. My son was beaten by his former classmate, a young boy who screamed, "You cockroach! Remove your shoes and give them to me."
Oprah: After you finally escaped from the hotel and were taken to the Tutsi rebel camp, was life ever normal again?
Paul: Life wasn't normal until September 1996, when I sought asylum in Belgium. I narrowly escaped with my life. I fled my own country as a refugee.
Oprah: Yet you saved 1,268 people—which you say in your book was the number being killed every three hours.
Paul: So small a number to save!
Oprah: It really wasn't, Paul.
Paul: To me, it was.
Oprah: What happened to those people?
Paul: They're living all around the world—in America, Europe, Rwanda. Some became prominent leaders in our country.
Oprah: You must get lots of Christmas cards.
Paul: [Laughs.] You can't imagine how many thousands of e-mails I get every day.
Oprah: Your book is called An Ordinary Man, yet you took on an extraordinary feat with courage, determination, and diplomacy. You talked your butt off, Paul!
Paul: An ordinary man is one who does his job. That's what I did. As a hotel manager, I simply catered to a different clientele.
We Hear You!