Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Hotel Rwanda' Subject Grabs Crowd's Attention; He Speaks at JU about How He Survived and Helped Others

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Hotel Rwanda' Subject Grabs Crowd's Attention; He Speaks at JU about How He Survived and Helped Others

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN LEWIS

After months of using his wits and connections to defy the forces that slaughtered 800,000 people in 1994 in Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina escaped from the Hotel des Mille Collines that June.

He left with 1,268 refugees whose lives he helped save. But when he returned a month later, he beheld a horrifying sight.

"All along the road, the whole country was smelling of death," Rusesabagina said. "All along the road, we couldn't see a human being alive. . . . We could hear dogs barking, fighting for the dead bodies."

The subject of the film Hotel Rwanda kept a crowd of about 940 enraptured at Jacksonville University Tuesday night with stories of fear and desperate attempts at survival in the Hotel des Mille Collines. He fleshed out the horrors that began in the landlocked African nation in April 1994 with the assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi.

He gave a dire warning that history was repeating itself now with the rampant killing in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Rusesabagina started his speech with a brief history of modern Rwanda and its strife. Then his story began in earnest, with an account of strangers pouring into his house in April 1994 as the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began at the hands of Hutu militias.

Soldiers came to his house, ordering him to go to a hotel. He talked them into letting him bring his family and all the strangers. The soldiers took them away in vans but threatened to kill all of them.

"I knew he was not joking because all along the streets there are so many dead bodies, some without heads, others with their bellies open, mutilated," Rusesabagina said.

Three days later, Rusesabagina and his group traveled in a convoy to the Hotel des Mille Collines, the location featured in the film starring Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte.

Rusesabagina called all the generals he knew to find security to protect the hotel. …

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