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Week In Review: Larry King Live Reflects On Past Week's Tsunami Coverage

Aired January 9, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, memorable moments in the wake of the disaster from the tsunami's staggering toll of death of and destruction to incredible individual tales of rescue and escape, and the heart-breaking stories of those left behind searching desperately for loved ones. All that, and more, the best of our coverage of the tsunami aftermath this past week on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Thanks for joining us. As we look back at our second unforgettable week covering the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the disaster was historic and scope, and our week began with an historic responds: 2 former presidents from different parties getting together for one urgent cause.

President's George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton joined us Monday to tell us all about, and shared, their reactions to this tragedy.

KING: What does something like this do to you personally? What does it do to you emotionally? How does it make you feel about faith or pessimism and optimism? What goes through you?

BUSH: I'm kind of getting emotional at this age in my life, 80- years-old. I kind of choked up when I saw a little duck, a little bathtub duck, under the greeting wall at one of the embassies. And I thought of the children. And my heart was overflowing with it. And you can't help but be moved.

I noticed President Clinton talking to a woman in one of the embassies who'd lost both her mother and her father and a brother, I believe it was, President. And, you know, it just breaks you up.

And what we're doing, I'm sure, people will say, well, this is show business or something like that, but it's not. You feel, Larry, like you're helping. You feel like you can be, what I used to call, a point of light. But you feel like can you make a difference. And it's very rewarding. It's very rewarding. We've just gotten started.

KING: President Clinton, what does it do to you?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, it reminds us that we are not fully in control in this life. It's a humbling experience. You know, when I was governor of Arkansas, we suffered from tornadoes more than any other state in the country. I've seen a lot of people who lost everything, including their loved ones.

And then when I was president, we had that 500-year flood in the Mississippi River Valley, and terrible hurricanes in Florida. And then, of course, around the world, we've seen these things. But this is of a magnitude that we haven't seen in decades, and it reminds us that we're not in control.

You can say whatever you want. We should have had a better warning system, this, that, or the other thing. There are a lot of things that can be analyzed later. But the truth is that the earth is a complex organism. And it operates in ways that are not entirely predictable.

And it's a manifestation that, for me at least, that God is still in control of life, ultimately, and that we're not. And there are a lot of things in life we can't understand. But I think that -- I feel the same way President Bush does.

You know, if you've been as lucky as we have -- you just think about it. We got to do work we love. We didn't have to work to live. We got to live for our work, for our public service. We got to live our dreams.

When you reach our age and you're done with all the things, and you've been so lucky, and then you see a guy clawing in the sand trying to get his fishing boat out because his wife and three children have been killed and he wants to get his livelihood back to have some reason to live, then you realize that, you know, about all you can do is to try to do whatever you can to help people have the blessings of a normal life.

And for me, I've reached the point in my life when my number-one goal is I don't want to see anybody younger than me die who doesn't have to. You know, I just hope we can keep more people alive by doing this and help them get back to normal life.

KING: You feel blessed, President Bush?

BUSH: Yes, I do, Larry. And, you know, sometimes as a father, identify with the problems that our son, the president, is facing. I mean, I wouldn't be much of a dad if I didn't think of the burdens on his shoulders. Just the regular day-to-day burdens of the office, which are enormous today, and then this coming on top of it, because he feels in his heart the same thing President Clinton just talked about. And he aches for all these people. And he spoke very well of it at these four embassies today.

So everybody -- you know, it doesn't matter whether you are president, whether you're the head of AmeriCares or one of the other marvelous charitable organizations, you feel it in your heart. And think that's what we're talking about.

And the thing I hope -- what I hope comes of this is that some of our friends abroad that may have been disillusioned, or for one political reason or another, or the war or something, are going to see our country unified, all politics gone out of this effort here, and willing to step up and help those less fortunate than ourselves.

And that sends a strong message around the world, of our own true compassion, our own true heartbeat as a country. And I think a lot of good can come out of this horrible disaster.

KING: We're back again. The website is www.USAfreedom.corps -- that's all one word -- That website will -- not only you can contribute to it but give you so much information about areas you can go and what you can do and where you can give. Our guests are former presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and Bill Clinton, the 42nd president. President Clinton, do you plan on calling upon others, like I know president Ford is not feeling 100 percent or former president Clinton -- former president Carter, do you plan on making calls to other top officials now retired who might be involved?

CLINTON: Well, I think it depends what course this takes. We want to do what we can in the next few weeks to get the giving up. Former president Ford sounded great when I talked to him not long before my library dedication, but he's not supposed to fly, and I think president Carter is about to go with the NDI to monitor the Palestinian elections. So he's got his hands full right now. But you know, two, three, four months from now, we may need a whole new infusion of help, because as I said, I saw where Kofi Annan said he thought it might take ten years...

KING: Yes.

CLINTON: ...for the area to recover. It may not take ten years, it might take two or three years, but we're all going have to help over the long run. One thing President Bush said that I thought was interesting is that, you know, maybe this will help to bring the world together and helping this area -- these areas. I also think it might help to bring them together. The hardest hit area in Indonesia, Aceh, has a very vigorous separatism movement, which has threatened the independence of that country that has 17,000 islands, and I hope that they'll find a peaceful resolution to the political differences they have while they're rebuilding life.

If you look at Sri Lanka, the peace process that's been under way there was kind of stalled, and the whole island's been devastated. The Buddhist temple in New York, where Hillary and I visited, is committed to giving its supplies and aid not just to Buddhist but to Hindus, including those who were supporting the Tamil movement and the Muslims and the Christians on the islands.

So it may be that they will come together in Sri Lanka as a result of this human tragedy in ways that haven't happened before. If that happens, that's good. But to go back to your original question, in order to get that done, we're all going have to stay with them and do whatever we can for months on end, and I just think the most important thing is -- the best thing for America is just to do right, just do the right thing, and give people a sense that we're pulling for them. We want the best for them. And if that happens, and if they see that in our hearts from the president on down to all the rest of us, then whatever benefit will happen will happen. We just need to follow the do right rule here.

KING: President Bush, do you think it can help the American image worldwide, and in the Muslim nations?

BUSH: Yes, I do. I'm sure of it. My mind goes back to Desert Storm where we fought there, and I think a lot of people in that area never thought we would fight for their freedom. I think a lot of people in that area that were scared to death after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait really thought that the United States cared enough to come in and help, and that was military. But here, I think, this projects an even better image, if you go in there just giving of yourselves because you care, and I think it will help the United States in every one of the countries that have been devastated. I'm absolutely convinced of it. I felt it -- I don't know whether you did, president Clinton, in these embassies today. But I felt it. I really did feel that they were grateful, and in some of the areas we've had difficulties, no question about that.

KING: Do you feel it today, president Clinton?

CLINTON: Yes, I agree with that, and I agree with what President Bush said. You know, when I was president, and we were involved in Bosnia and Kosovo, the people whom we were trying to help and protect were primarily Muslims. We celebrated the feast of Eid el-Fitr at the end of Ramadan in the White House for the first time. One of the best things that the president did after 9/11, was to go to a mosque and meet with Muslim leaders and say our enemy is not Islam, our enemy is terror. This is a way of reaffirming this, to say that we want to be on good terms with the Muslims throughout the world, we honor their faith, we honor their right to pursue their faith, and we want them to have good lives wherever they live.

So I think, again, if we just do the right thing, then we'll be on better terms with our neighbors, and it will really help, I think, not only the United States, but more importantly it will help us to build a more peaceful, more integrated world.

KING: President Bush, do you plan to pick up the phone and call previous contributors, the kind of major people that you know and ask them personally to give, businesses and the like?

BUSH: I'm sure we'll be doing some of that. I've never been much of a fund-raiser, but for this purpose, I would. We're trying to get it all coordinated, and there's going to be a meeting in Washington, I understand, Thursday or Wednesday or Thursday, so we'll get it more wrapped up as to what we should be doing. There's another area, I don't know whether president Clinton has heard it yet. But the Ad Council has stepped up and they want to help put forward to get both him and I -- him and me working on PSAs, public service announcements to go out around the country.

So there's all kinds of things including phone calls to prospective donors or those who care. I guess our mission is not really fully defined to crossing every T and dotting the Is yet.

KING: President Clinton, you smiled when President Bush said he didn't like fund-raising. I guess you rather liked it. Will you be involved? CLINTON: Well, I don't know that I liked it, but I found it a necessary evil. I think, first of all, let's give credit where credit's due. There's been an extraordinary outpouring of generosity from Americans at all income levels and from people throughout the world. I noticed in either I think Hong Kong or Singapore, the cab drivers took up collections and just amazing things like that being done all across our country and all throughout the world.

But I think that we may well have to get on the phone and try to raise some more money, particularly if we're told, let's say, the U.N. is coordinating some of this work, and working closely with the United States. The president has announced that all the major donor nations are going to start working together more. Suppose they come to us and say, look, we need another $50 million for antibiotics or for the kind of -- the materials that keep the children from getting diarrhea, or for the anti-malaria medicine. Then I would have no hesitation getting on the phone and calling 50 people and saying, look, we need to do this, and I think that we're -- we just started, we're going to get a better idea of what the specific needs are in the next couple of days and what they're likely to be two weeks from now, what they're likely to be a month from now.

And when we know that I expect we'll be raising some more money. As I said I've been really gratified that President Bush got his first million dollars on his Blackberry within an hour of the announcement and by the time I got home we already had several million dollars more commitments. So maybe we won't have to make too many calls. If we're lucky we'll just gather up the money and target it where it needs to go.

KING: Health wise, you did say you are now 80, President Bush. I had the honor of emceeing your big birthday bash in Houston. It was a great night. Are you up to this?

BUSH: What do you say?

KING: I mean, you're entitled to go out and watch the roses grow. I mean, it's going take a little out of you, isn't it?

BUSH: No, well, pretty good physical shape still, but what it takes out of me is emotionally.

KING: I know.

BUSH: I don't think I'd be very good if I had to embrace a mother who had just lost two babies in this tsunami. I'd break up and stuff. That has nothing to do with whether we ought to be doing what we're doing. But physically, I'm up for all this stuff. Maybe someday we'll go off to the area if that's what they expect of us or want us to do.

KING: What about you, president Clinton?

CLINTON: Come on, Larry, you ought to be asking me if I'm up to it. He's in better shape than I've been. I'm having heart surgery, he's jumping out of airplanes. I don't know if I'm up to it. I'm just going to try to -- my whole goal here is to learn how to be in the shape he's in when I'm 80. That's one of the things I tried to do. All I ever want out of this personally is to learn that while we're doing this.

KING: Now, he just said something, would you back up that, if you are asked to go there, would you go, President Clinton?

CLINTON: Oh, in a heartbeat, yes. And I think that at an appropriate time we should go, and I'd be prepared to do that.

But again, we want to help. We don't want to go just to go. We want to go when we can see some of the fruits of our labors and get some idea of what we should be doing for the longer term. All of us, every person in the world, should be saying, what is it that I can do that would have the most positive effect on human beings, on their lives, to try to help them deal with their grief, or put their lives back together, or avoid further illness or danger? And then we should do that.

And when going to the region is a part of that, and the answer to that question is yes, that would help, we ought to be willing to go. Until then, we ought to sit here and do our work.

KING: And you would go, right, President Bush?

BUSH: Absolutely. Not seeking an invitation, but, of course, I would, and I hope by the time we're asked to do something, enormous progress would have been made, because President Clinton made a telling point. You know, the more big shot visitors you have in these places, that sometimes can interfere with the work getting done on the beaches, on the ground, in the cities, or wherever.

So we wouldn't want to get in the way. But -- and we don't want to go just for the sake of saying, I was over there, let me tell you -- guys, have a cigar and let me tell you what's going on in Sri Lanka. It's got to be something more profound than that. But I'd be perfectly prepared to.

I think President Clinton tell me had -- planned a trip to that part of world, anyway. Didn't you, Bill?

CLINTON: Yes, I had to cancel a trip right before my heart surgery. So I'm obligated to go back and do some work to promote my book in Asia. So I have to go back anyway, so I intend to go, and make some of these countries when I am there. But I hope we can go together, and I hope I can do it after we've done something so that we know what our efforts are doing. We go in there to see what we did and to see what still needs to be done.

KING: We'll be back with more of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. Don't go away.


KING: We know that both of you are men of faith. When something like this happens, President Bush, I'll start with you, do you grapple with the question of why a caring God would allow this? Do you question faith?

BUSH: I don't -- my faith isn't shaken by it. Don't want to get too personal here, but when we lost a little 4-year-old daughter many years ago, I must confess, I said, why, God, why this innocent child? And I expect many, many thousand fold would be asking the same question about the children and the families that are lost in this devastating tsunami.

But my faith is not questioned. It doesn't come into question, or I wonder about it at all. God does act in mysterious ways, and you can't tell what's going to happen. But faith sustains the people. Faith -- whatever their faith, whatever denominational faith there is, it is keeping a lot of those devastated, broken homes together, keeping people -- giving them hope.

And so my faith is never shaken by a personal tragedy, or even a tragedy of this enormity.

I've got to confess, you wonder why, but it doesn't get to shaking my very faith, Larry.

KING: And you, President Clinton?

CLINTON: No. I think that we all know that life is not fair in a million ways, and some of us, like President Bush and I, we got more out of life than we deserve, perhaps. We were very fortunate. But we've all had our fair share of tragedy as well. Nothing to compare with what these people have lost, their children, their grandchildren, their spouses, their brothers or sisters are facing today. It's staggering.

But you know, it's been part of the nature of human life from the very beginning. And as I said, to me it's humbling. It reminds us that we're not in control, that our faith is constantly tested by circumstances, but it should be deepened when we see the courageous response people are having, and the determination to endure. To me, in the end, it's -- it's -- deepens your faith when you see the triumph of the human spirit in the face of this kind of adversity.

KING: Don't go away.


KING: You're looking at the now famous wall of missing children in Phuket, Thailand. And joining us from Phuket now is Rebecca Bedall and Ron Rubin. They are both tsunami survivors, and they found that little Swedish toddler alone after the tsunami hit. The little boy later reunited with his father. Ron, what were you doing in Phuket?

RON RUBIN, SURVIVED TSUNAMI IN THAILAND: We were vacationing. And we were up actually in Khao Lak, which is a little north of Phuket, just on a -- you know, on our winter break vacation.

KING: From -- where do you live in the States? RUBIN: We're from Seattle, Washington.

KING: Obviously, you were having a good time. That's a beautiful area. Rebecca, what happened when it hit? Where were you? What happened?

REBECCA BEDALL, SURVIVED TSUNAMI IN THAILAND: Well, we were in Khao Lak, like Ron said, and we were sleeping in our hotel room. It was about 10:30 in the morning, sleeping on the second floor. And we were awoken (ph) by what sounded like an explosion and which was actually the first floor of our hotel being wiped out from underneath of us. And we were -- we managed to climb to the roof. Ron grabbed me, pulled me to the roof while the second floor got wiped out underneath of us, and we just -- we sat on the roof and watched the rest of the hotels and everything around us collapse.

KING: Ron, how long were you on the roof?

RUBIN: Well, we really can't be certain. But you know, we think it was probably around an hour to an hour and a half. You know, whereas we didn't see the first wave, we saw the second wave, and the second wave was bigger than the first, and it brought everything that had been swept out to sea back in to sea. So there were cars that had floated out into the ocean that were now slamming into our hotel. There was people floating by holding on to things. And our hotel, like Rebecca said was all the way up until the second -- 40 feet. The water rose like a bathtub up to around 40 feet in 300 yards, and we were up on the roof watching for what seemed like an eternity, but it was probably around an hour and a half before we made a run for it.

KING: Now, Rebecca, how did you come across the young toddler?

BEDALL: We came across him up in the mountains, as we're calling it, the highest point that we could possibly climb to when we actually did make a run for it. We found him in this construction site of a bungalow, and he was laying with a group of Thai people who were watching him at that point. He was all wrapped in blankets. That's where I first saw him.

KING: And how then did you know what to do with him? Did you take him? How did he -- I know his mother died. How did he get to his -- how did that -- give us the logistics.

BEDALL: Sure. Yes, I did -- I went over and sat with him. I realized after a while that he was with Thai people, and so I went over and tried to figure out if his parents were around, what was going on. He was -- it seemed like he was going in and out of consciousness. So I was just trying to keep him cool, give him water, wake him up a little bit, trying to talk to him, seeing what language he spoke, just trying to figure out anything that we could at that point. But basically, I just -- I just held him and cuddled him for the day. It was probably about five hours before we could actually get him to a hospital.

KING: Is that where he was reunited? BEDALL: No. No, he wasn't until -- he was worked on at the hospital for about four hours, and then they took him to intensive care, actually in Phuket, which is two hours away from where it all happened. And I don't think it was until at least two or three days later that they knew that his father was OK and he was in a hospital about three hours away from him. And then they were reunited, maybe three or four days after the actual event.

KING: Did you meet the father, and did you find a special bonding with him, Rebecca?

BEDALL: I didn't get to meet him. I met the uncle, who had flown in -- he saw the picture of the baby on the Internet. He flew from Sweden to the hospital. And so we did get to meet him. And we did get to meet the grandmother, who was actually also in the wave. She had broke her arm and had a punctured lung, I think. And so I got to meet her. She was crying, very grateful when we met. The father was actually in surgery. He had some infected wounds. So we weren't able to meet him.

KING: Ron, why are you still there? Why don't you go home?

RUBIN: Well, Larry, you know, when we were standing on the roof, we went through a whole range of emotions obviously in the first couple moments, we thought they were our last. As it became clear that we were going to live, I thought about that saying, you know, to those that are -- to those that are given much, much is expected, or something like that.

And you know, immediately we wanted to help in any way we could, but we -- you know, we had to find clothes and get some money. So now that we've done that, we've been up to one of the temples that we're acting as a, you know, morgue and Rebecca actually carried bodies, which was -- you know, I was so proud of her for doing that. And I carried coffins. And we just helped out any way we could.

We've been going to the city center, which is where the volunteers gather, where we've met other Americans, and we've put our name on a list to volunteer. And at this point we've determined that the way we can help most is -- our friends back home, our friends and associates are collecting money, and they're wiring it to us. And we're just going directly back to the area that we found Hannes (ph) at and distributing small amounts of money to the people that lost everything. The Thai people have been so gracious to us at every step of the way.

KING: Does that mean, Rebecca, that you're going to stay indefinitely?

BEDALL: No, not indefinitely. We're really just taking it day by day at this point. But our plan right now is to stay at least a week or two and like Ron said go deliver small amounts of money directly to the people whose homes have been washed away.

RUBIN: Larry, we owe a lot, we owe everything to the people of Thailand. They have been so gracious to us. They gave us clothes. They gave us food and water. When we were in the hospital with Hannes (ph) the night we took him there, it was a war zone. You know, there was blood on the ground. I was walking around, and one of the Thai nurses came up to me and offered me her shoes. And we can tell you a thousand stories about how the people of Thailand have been so kind and so gracious to us. Not only us but to all the foreign tourists here. And we want to get the message out. In the days and weeks and months to come we want the people to come to Thailand and support these people that have, you know, lost their livelihood because they're some of the best people in the world and we just really want to say thank you to Thailand.

KING: Colin Powell and Jeb Bush were both in Phuket today. Rebecca, did you see them?

BEDALL: No. I have no idea where they are. Phuket's a pretty big place. So I'm not sure.

KING: We salute you both. It's an incredible story. When you get back home, we hope to see you on the shores of the United States. Congratulations.

RUBIN: Thank you very much.

BEDALL: Thank you.

KING: Don't go away.


KING: Right now we're go by videophone to Phuket, Thailand. There is some delay in the guests hearing me so put up with this.

Dan Walker is the grandfather of Christian Walker, the 12-year- old Swedish boy missing since the tsunami began. 12-year-old Christian Walker was vacationing on Koloa Beach with his mother, and his brother and sister when the tsunami struck. The siblings survived, but Christian and his mother went missing.

Dan Walker, a former United States Marine, resident of the United States, is in Thailand now to get involved with all of this concerning his missing grandson.

Is it your daughter, Dan, that married a Swedish gentleman? Is that how this story works?

DAN WALKER, GRANDSON MISSING: No, sir, the other way around. My son married a Swedish girl, Madeline. The mother of the 3 children, who is missing.

KING: I see. And they live in Sweden?

WALKER: Yes, they do. They live in Stockholm.

KING: And where is the mother? What do we know of her?

WALKER: We have no idea where she is. KING: Now police investigation -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

WALKER: Well, I've been to every hospital on the island and at least 3 hospitals on the mainland. Looked through all the lists. Gone to the various Buddhist temples, the ones that they're using as mortuaries, looked at pictures and have found absolutely no trace of Madeline, the mother of the 3 children.

KING: Now, what's the story, Dan? The police say one thing, then another. What do you know about Christian, your grandson?

WALKER: Well, I should tell you that the Thai tourist police have devoted at least the last five days to drive me around to various hospitals and principally to a town north of here on the mainland called Tan Lang (ph) where 2 doctors and a nurse believe that they saw Christian, that he was brought into the hospital by a Caucasian adult for treatment to a rather minor ear injury. He was taken away and then brought back by the same Caucasian gentleman the second day for further treatment to his minor ear complaint. But he then left and has not been seen since.

As you probably know, there's been some discussion about the possibility that he's been kidnapped. I think that's only a possibility. But I hope that he has been kidnapped, because then he's still alive.

What would you say to that gentleman who may have your boy, may have your grandson, if he were watching now?

WALKER: Well, all I can say to him is we'd be very grateful to have the boy back, naturally. And just to add to what your gentleman just told you, about the cooperation of the Thai people, they have been extraordinary. I have some experience with this being a member of the disaster medical assistance team for central Florida. Having dealt with three of the four hurricanes we had there. And I want to tell you, I don't believe that in Sweden or in America, we could have dealt with this tragedy as well as the Thais have done. They're highly organized. They're very, very helpful. You can go to any one of the many hospitals that's dealt with this activity and there will be somebody there to talk to you as long as you want to talk to them. They'll show you the patients. They'll show you their lists.

And the Thais are really extraordinary. The Swedish embassy here from the very beginning has been very -- all the way from ambassador on down, has been extremely helpful. And the Thai tourist police as I mentioned earlier have devoted the last five days exclusively to helping me look for Christian. They're just a marvelous people, the Thais.

KING: I might also say that your attitude is extraordinary, too. People who want to donate to help tsunami victims, go to on the Internet. There's how it's spelled. The website gives you contact information, a long list of reputable charities and relief organizations that will be glad to accept any contribution you're able to make.

We'll be back with our guests after this.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. And this portion of the program was taped earlier today at the Lakers training center in El Segundo with the great Kobe Bryant, on of the great basketball players ever. He is currently the second leading scorer in the NBA, just 2 ticks behind Alan Iverson with 28.6, I think, to 28.4.

He's joining other basketball stars in a shoot-a-than to raise funds for UNICEF and tsunami relief.

This was the concept of your agent's?


KING: How's it work?

BRYANT: Well, we'll donate $1,000 for every point that we score, you know, in an attempt to give back and try to help as much as we can.

KING: So the agency came to you and its other players?

BRYANT: Yeah. And they said, you know, we have this concept. You know, Jermaine O'Neal is taking part in it. Tracy McGrady is taking part in it. And I said, oh, I would love to take a part in that. Then when you sit back and you watch what's going on over there on the news and everything, you feel obligated to do something, to do something to help out any way that you can, and this is the way that we can do it.

KING: So tomorrow night when you play Houston, for every point you score -- in other words, if you hit your average, you would be donating about $28,000.

BRYANT: That's correct.

KING: Just for one game?

BRYANT: Yes, sir.

KING: Do you think the league should do something?

BRYANT: You know what, it's our hope that by spreading out the word, spreading out the message other athletes will jump on board and do it. Not only athletes, entertainers, but just people as a whole. So you know, going to the grocery store or whatever it is, if somebody can donate a $1, $2, 50 cents, or whatever it is. I mean, we're talking about if masses of people donate $1, $2, I mean, that goes a long way, that makes a huge difference.

KING: Is it going to affect your game tomorrow, do you think? You know what's happening?

BRYANT: There's a greater good involved here. It's really... (CROSSTALK)

BRYANT: It's going to be difficult to not let that affect it. But at the same time, you know, we're professionals. And we're just going to go out there and we're going to do our best for his team to win, and we're going to try to help out team win. And during the process, the greater good is going to come out of it.

KING: What do you think when tragedies occur? Are you thinking, does it question your faith?

BRYANT: No, it doesn't question my faith.

KING: It doesn't?

BRYANT: No, not at all. It strengthens it.

No, we're all God's children. You know, God has a bigger plan for all of us. Has a bigger plan that we can't understand, we can't begin to understand. But it's important to have that faith and to believe. And in difficult times, they say like there's no light, you know, those are the toughest times to have faith, but God will bring you through anything.

KING: Does it make your own adversity seem small?

BRYANT: Oh, absolutely.

KING: It dwarfs it, right?

BRYANT: Absolutely. You know, we all have crosses to bear. We all have crosses to bear. And you know, the cross that you are blessed to carry, may feel like a huge burden to you, but there's somebody out there who has a cross five times bigger than yours...

KING: You're not kidding.

BRYANT: ...that's carrying that cross. And then there's another person who has a cross bigger than his. And so we're all blessed in our own way, to be able to just wake up in the morning and to be able to receive the Lord's blessing, and to carry that cross and carry that burden, because it's a blessing, and that's how it should be looked. Because in the process of going through adversity, you're learning something. It brings you closer to God.

KING: I know we're not going to talk about any of your -- you got things to settle and stuff, and hope one day we can sit down and have a real nice, long conversation about your extraordinary career and your life.

How's your wife? How's everything going?

BRYANT: Man, we're doing great, going great. You know, we had a good Christmas. My daughter, she -- she just loves opening gifts.

KING: How old is she? BRYANT: She'll be 2 next month. She just likes unwrapping them, you know what I mean? It's not really like the gift that's in it, she just really likes unwrapping them. Then she opened one and saw Elmo, and she didn't want to open anything else after that.

KING: And everything is OK at home?

BRYANT: Absolutely.

KING: That's difficult, though, to go through that kind of adversity.

BRYANT: It sure is difficult. But you know what, like I said, God brings you through the toughest of times. You know. He brings you through.

KING: Your faith sustains you.

BRYANT: My faith carries me. Carried us. You know, we've seen days where it was tough to walk, but you have have, it will bring you through. And so when I see something that takes place like the tsunami, I just say a prayer for them. I pray for them. I pray that they stay strong.

KING: So whatever you score tomorrow night, you match and it goes to tsunami relief. Congratulations, Kobe.

BRYANT: Thank you.

KING: Kobe Bryant.

I'm Larry King. We're be right back with Richard Branson. Don't go away.


KING: Matthew Chance is our CNN correspondent in Phuket, Thailand. He's done outstanding reporting since this catastrophe began. In Berwala (ph), Sri Lanka is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, one of the best if not the best in the business.

First, we'll start in London with Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group. Virgin is doing dedicated aid flights in cooperation with Oxfam. How does it work, Sir Richard?

RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN GROUP: Well, we're fortunate to have three airlines around the world. And we've set aside a small team of people so that when there are crisis situations in the world, we can react quickly. And straight after the disaster struck, we managed to get the first flight to Sri Lanka. And we've sent flights into the Maldives and India. And we've obviously got a great team of people who can move quickly.

KING: Do you have -- are you going -- is it you're running this like shuttles? BRANSON: We're really just sending as much goods as Oxfam needs us to send. Obviously, sending water by air is not cost-effective, but, for instance, in Sri Lanka, where we sent a 747 today, they just desperately need fresh water. So, you know, sometimes it's necessary. And so we basically told the agencies that our planes are available when they need them.

KING: And you're also promoting donations on all your flights, right?

BRANSON: Yes. I mean, you know, we're doing, I suspect, what, fortunately, millions around the world are doing. And we're using our various businesses to, you know, to promote and raise money in as many different ways as possible. And I think, you know, that, you know, business people around the world, and, you know, some, you know, some become extremely wealthy -- capitalism is the only method that works. But it's extremely important that those people that are in a position to help do help.

KING: Sir Branson has given 50,000 pounds of his own money to disaster emergency committee. What is the latest, Christiane, from Sri Lanka?

AMANPOUR: Well, just listening to Richard Branson talk there just reminds me of the outpouring of private generosity that just really helped not just here in Sri Lanka but all over this affected area. You can't help but read all the time about businessmen, whether it be from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, entertainers, sportsmen. Here in Sri Lanka, for instance, cricketers are big stars, and they're going out and hand delivering aid to some of the worst affected areas. And this is really something they're all doing as a community. They've all been moved to do whatever they can to help.

So that's quite -- that's quite an incredible thing. The death toll here stands at 30,000, a little bit over that, if you take just the government held areas. But then the government says that with the rebel-held areas, the Tamil-held areas, the death toll goes up to 46,000. That's the second hardest hit place, after Indonesia, which took the brunt of the earthquake obviously, on Boxing Day. But this little country, 700 kilometers of its coastline, 80 percent of its main industry, which is fishing, has basically been destroyed, and they have got a lot of work to do to get life back in order again. Not to mention the desperate loss of life.

KING: And at the top of the hour, in about six minutes, you're going to co-host a special on the children of tsunami. Since you're a mother yourself now, has this hit you with more impact?

AMANPOUR: Well, absolutely. And CNN decided, and I think rightly, to do a special that did focus on the youngest victims. And the children, you know, the first thing I met when I got off the plane to start working here, first story I did was of a young 7-year-old boy who had lost his parents, his siblings in a train crash. It was the worst wreck of this west coast of Sri Lanka. And you know, he's so young. He's so stunned. He can barely grieve. And there is so much that needs to be done for these children. Not just in helping them out, but also now in protecting them from bad gangs who are preying on them, you know, people are now very worried about sexual predators, exploitation, abuse. And all the governments in these affected areas have now cracked down. They want all their children registered. They don't want adoptions right now until they're ready to do it properly and formally. It's a big worry.

KING: Christiane Amanpour, who will host that, along with many other correspondents at the top of the hour, a special on the children of the tsunami.

What, Matthew Chance, is the latest from Phuket?

CHANCE: Well, Larry, in terms of the aid effort, the emergency aid effort, it's a very different situation here in Thailand than it is in Sri Lanka and of course elsewhere in the tsunami-affected areas. The Thai government has issues like food supplies, like shelter, like water very much in hand, and has made it quite clear that what it does need from the international community are expertise and equipment to assist in the reconstruction effort. And things like forensic teams. And there have been forensic teams and police come in from at least 25 countries from around the world here to Thailand, just to take part in the very long and difficult process of identifying all the dead bodies from the various different countries here.

The casualty figures as they stand here in Sri Lanka -- sorry, here in Thailand -- are 5,200 or more people confirmed dead. About the same number are still missing. So it is an enormous catastrophe to strike this holiday paradise area, where so many people from around the world were spending their vacations over the Christmas period. And it's because of that unique situation, with so many people from so many different countries, that the problems are so distinctive and so unique here, that they have to focus their efforts not so much on the emergency relief, as I say, but on identifying those people and getting their bodies back to their loved ones, Larry.

KING: And Matthew, are tourists back? Are there many tourists there?

CHANCE: There are still tourists here. But as you can imagine, it's nowhere near the same levels that this part of Thailand expects at this time of the year. This is the peak season. I suppose to some people involved in the tourist industry, bar owners, hotel owners, and things like that, they are saying that they reckon it's about 70 percent less tourists here now than they would expect at this time of year, normally.

We've spoken to some tourists as well. And it's interesting, because it's surprising, I know, to many of us that tourists would -- any tourists at all would come here, given the scale of the disaster. They're saying they're coming back simply because they want to give Thailand their support, Larry.

KING: Thank you. Matthew Chance in Phuket, Christiane Amanpour in Beruwala, Sri Lanka. Stay tuned for her special at the top of the hour. And the always welcome Sir Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of the Virgin Group. We'll be right back.


KING: Two very interesting stories. In Atlanta, Steven Foster, tsunami survivor, Army veteran, was in Special Ops. In Phuket on holiday with friends. In Huntsville, Alabama, Glenn Watson, councilman for the city of Huntsville, Alabama, who saved the life of a little boy. Also, he is a tsunami survivor, was vacationing in Phuket as well.

Stephen, this was just you and a bunch of guys having fun? Was that the purpose of going on this trip?

STEVEN FOSTER, FORMER ARMY SPECIAL OPS SOLDIER: Yes, Larry, it was. I'd went over and met some friends of mine, and we were -- had been diving. I probably dove the last three days in a row. Was planning on leaving that morning. And so I just -- I just didn't go with them. They'd asked me do I want to go, and I said, I may meet you, but I don't think I probably will. I'd been over in August and fell in love with the place. It was -- it's literally -- it was the most beautiful place you'd ever seen in your life.

KING: Did -- where was the last place you served in military action?

FOSTER: Actually, when I got out the last time, I got out in Ft. Ord, California, but I'd been involved in a couple of the actions from '88 through early '92, and I worked -- I've also worked as a contractor and adviser over the last couple of years.

KING: Glenn Watson, what were you doing there?

GLENN WATSON, HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA COUNCILMAN: I was in Kamala Bay, which is about five miles from Patong Beach, which was the most destructed area. I was in my room on the first floor -- it was a condo-type room -- and I heard a lot of yelling. I went outside and said, what's the matter, what's going on? And they said, "tidal wave." And I said what's a -- you know, what do you do when somebody says tidal wave? Out of the clear blue, 64 years old, never heard the word before.

It didn't take me long to look up and see what a tidal wave was. And I started running trying to get to high ground. And the thing -- the first wave was about a foot and a half, and it caught me, knocked me down. And then the second wave, which wasn't very far behind it, it was about five foot, 5 1/2 feet, and it was turbulent water, just destroyed everything on the ground floor, was carrying everything with it.

I grabbed onto the railing and tried to get into a position where I could get in between the two railings and maybe give myself a chance to get up the stairs, but the water was just throwing me around like a rag doll.

Well, I grabbed the other railing, and about that time I saw the two -- the mother and her child coming -- just coming out of control, completely out of control, and I was close enough to be able to grab him. I grabbed him by his right arm and pulled him in close to me, and the water was trying to rip him away, and the water was trying to rip me all over, and I just held on with everything I had. I didn't -- we were underwater probably eight or 10 seconds at one time. And...

KING: What happened to the mother?

WATSON: She went by. She made one look over at me. And I don't know if she was looking at me or her son. But I remember seeing that face. It was only for a second. And I'll see that face the rest of my life. I couldn't help her. I couldn't -- all I -- I had all I could do then to keep the boy and myself above water, which wasn't -- I wasn't being very successful.

KING: Steven, what happened to you?

FOSTER: I was actually in my room when it happened, and a loud crashing sound, something like I'd never heard before. When the wave went back out and it created a vacuum, I knew that -- I thought it was a bomb at first, and then I knew automatically, I said this is something I've never experienced.

Got out of my room, which was pretty much destroyed. I mean, there wasn't any reason to stay there anymore. The roof was messed up. Got down to the beach and had met up with some other people I'd met, some Australians. We went down -- and I could have left. And I just -- you've seen the people. And I mean, it was unbelievable, the destruction. Nothing man-made could even compare to it. We went down and were helping some people up. I mean, they were just cut and scarred and scratched up like you wouldn't believe.

And we were down there for I don't know how long it was. It seemed for quite a while, actually. And all of a sudden, the Australian guy was standing there -- the birds flew, the dogs kind of snapped to attention like they were pointing to a bird or something. They took and ran back up the street. And my friend grabbed me and said, let's go.

And we took off and ran back up the street and was trying to get people to go, probably ran about 50 or 60 yards. And when I got back -- I looked back over my shoulder, and there was 12 to 15 feet of water where I had just been standing. The difference in -- really the difference -- the best way I can describe it, the difference in being here and not being here, it's not a matter of who or what you were, it was just where you were actually standing.

KING: Glenn, did you think you were going to die?

WATSON: Yes. For a little while there, Larry, I was under water, the boy was under water, and I couldn't -- didn't have the physical strength to pull up to get above the water. But the water was rampaging. It wasn't a smooth rush. It was up and down. And it grabbed -- occasionally I'd get a chance to breathe, and I'd put the kid up. And the two Thai guys reached down and wanted to take my hand, and I knew they couldn't hold me and the boy. So I said get the boy. And they reached down and they got him, and I made sure they had a good grip on him. And then a little bit later they came back down and helped me get up. But for a while there I thought I was gone. I almost let go because I was under water, and I said, well, I'll get up higher in the water. But if I let go I'd have been gone. There's no way I could have fought that water.

KING: Did you follow up on what happened to the boy?

WATSON: No. I know they took him to the hospital. He hurt his leg -- I don't know how badly. But it was enough to cause him a lot of pain. And I never -- there was all hectic from then on. There was so many people hurt, so many people injured and dead, really. I think one of the things that helped me hold on was a dead person floated by at a kind of high rate of speed, and then I said I'm not going to let go, I'm going to stay here no matter what happens. But it was a horrible thing, and when it was over the sight of that community and to see the damage that was done and the dead people all over the place was just a horrible experience, Larry.

KING: How old was the boy, Glenn?

WATSON: I'd say about 7. I judge it based on my grandchildren. My granddaughter Crawford (ph) is 7 years old. And he was about the size of her. So I based it on that.

KING: And you'll never get the face of the mother out of your head, will you?

WATSON: No. That's the one thing that really bothers me the most, Larry. I keep seeing that face. And when all this is over and I get back to some semblance of life, I'll still not forget the look on her face. And it was just a second, just a split second that I had to look at her, but I think she knew I had her boy, and maybe that gave her some comfort. I don't know.

KING: Steven, I know you have some medical training. Were you able to use it?

FOSTER: Yes. I -- very limited, you know, just basic stuff. And we helped the way we -- what I could do. But actually, one of the gentlemen that I actually linked up, our group grew to about 17, 18 people probably, and we ended up with children that we didn't even know and other people. And he was an Australian medic in the Vietnam era, and he was -- I seen him do some pretty amazing things, which really helped me. And another gentleman there had his son and two of his buddies, and they're probably 17 or 18 years old. And a couple hours before that, the most important thing in their life was playing in the water and chasing girls, and I watched them become some pretty -- pretty good men in a couple hours there. And at that age I don't know if I could have grown up as much as they did and become the human beings I seen them become.

KING: Is it true, Steven, you thought the United States embassy could have done more than it did?

FOSTER: Yes. That was probably the two -- I had two separate incidences that I was really disappointed, and that was one of them. I know for a fact we have enough people -- and the embassy in Bangkok is huge. You know, it's a huge facility. And I thought they could have really -- let's get our people, let's get them out. And it would have even relieved the pressure there. I got to the airport in Bangkok and they were actually non-existent. I couldn't find them.

KING: And what was the other instance?

FOSTER: We heard about the king's grandson had been missing, and I heard at one time there was a 500-person search party out looking for him. And I never seen any -- I didn't see any -- anybody helping the actual people who were hurt. But that's Thai culture. And you know, you go to the other side of the world, and you don't get what you get here at home. But the Thai people are -- they're a beautiful people and beautiful culture. But I believe their culture is going to be a bit of a problem in the relief effort.

KING: Glenn, I know you're a Rotarian, and I'm a lifetime honorary member of Rotary International. I think I'm speaking at the international convention. They're joining a lot in this relief effort, aren't they?

WATSON: I'm hoping that's going to be the case, Larry. I've had an awful lot of people wanted to give me money to give to them. But I want to make sure that they have a system in place to accept the money and then get it throughout the whole United States. And I've talked to some Rotarians in Bangkok. And hopefully if it does work out we can get significant amounts of money. And anybody that's been over there, he's right. The Thai people are just the greatest people in the world. They're just so gentle and so willing to help. And they need help now. They need our help really bad. And I hope -- I know the people in the United States are going to do it. I know now that the United States has responded with the helicopters and everything. So it's going to be OK because I've talked with them on e-mail today and they told me they already have electric power on the front road in Kamala Bay (ph), which is almost unbelievable.

KING: And again, if you want to aid and help, just go on your Web site to www.USAfreedomcorps, that's one word, USAfreedomcorps, there you see it on the screen, .gov. Last night presidents Clinton and Bush were with us. We discussed that at length.

Thanks for joining us on this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE as we reflected on the week and the tsunami.

We'll continue to follow the tsunami story throughout the weeks and months ahead.

Stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. See you tomorrow night. Good night.


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