Oprah Talks to Paul Rusesabagina
Paul: Our days are so few, our existences so complicated. As long as we're breathing, we shouldn't further complicate our lives. If we want to change things, we must first change ourselves. If we want to play—if we want to change the world—we must first show up on the field to score.
Oprah: Have your children recovered from the trauma?
Paul: At one point, I noticed that my children were becoming aggressive. Our solution was to get them talking around a table. The best therapy is talking.
Oprah: Was it difficult at first for them to speak about it?
Paul: Yes. The children said, "You love your country, but we don't need it." Until I convinced them to talk about Rwanda, they were hardly even willing to mention it. We'll never forget what we went through—the torture, the frustration. But we're recovering well. It's much better now than it was in 1995, 1996.
Oprah: Have your children gone to college?
Paul: Yes. My eldest daughter is an accountant and married with two daughters. My eldest son studied management and is now looking toward a master's. My second daughter is married and working on a BS in accounting. My younger son is in boarding school near Boston. My two nieces are attending primary and secondary school.
Oprah: After living through such a horror, does it take a lot to upset you?
Paul: Yes. Whatever I see in life, I take it to be so small and simple compared with what I've witnessed.
Oprah: What was the worst thing you saw?
Paul: Many days I went to the roof of the hotel and saw people being killed in the streets. The killers would pile up their bodies to form roadblocks. They'd then sit on the bodies as they drank beers.
Oprah: That's what happened during the Holocaust. In the concentration camps, Jewish bodies were thrown into a hole as the guards sat nearby, smoking cigarettes. Did you have nightmares?
Paul: I did, and so did my children. But since I started speaking about the genocide almost every day and since I began calling my children around the table to talk, our healing has come through our sharing.
Oprah: During your three months in that hotel, did you wake up every morning thinking you would die?
Paul: I was sure I'd be killed. I just didn't know how, when, or by whom. For years after the genocide, I was still afraid I'd be found and murdered. That was almost the case in September 1996, when I finally escaped from Rwanda. Since that day, I've referred to every hour of my life as a bonus.
Oprah: Why do you think you survived?
Paul: My day, my hour, my minute had not yet come. I believe I lived so that I could tell the world this story. That is my mission.