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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Encore Presentation: Interview With Petra Nemcova

Aired May 22, 2005 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive supermodel Petra Nemcova, her first live interview since the tsunami killed her boyfriend and left her clinging to dear life to a palm tree for eight hours, naked, with a shattered pelvis. Petra Nemcova -- and we'll take your calls about an ordeal that changed her life forever -- she's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're in New York tonight.

Let's look back. December 26, Petra and her boyfriend, Simon, were wrapping up their holiday vacation in Phuket, Thailand. Getting ready for a trip home when the wall of water comes crashing into their bungalow. It changes her life, the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people forever.

Next week, Petra will return to Thailand for the first time since she left the hospital there just days after the disaster.

She's the supermodel in "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition" cover girl.

What were you doing in Thailand?

PETRA NEMCOVA, MODEL: Well, thank you for having me Larry.

KING: Thank you for coming.

NEMCOVA: In Thailand, I took Simon for our holiday. It was supposed to be a surprise. And I had been in Thailand a couple of times in this country. It's like my home since the beginning, I felt so good there. The people are so amazing, kind and wonderful people. So I wanted to show him all this beauty there.

KING: So he didn't know he was going there?

NEMCOVA: At the end, he knew, but it was kind of -- I was organizing it all.

KING: He was a photographer, right?

NEMCOVA: Yes.

KING: Fashion photographer?

NEMCOVA: Yes. Fashion photographer

KING: Is that how he met? Did he shoot you? NEMCOVA: Yes, that's how we met.

KING: Had a wedding date been set?

NEMCOVA: No, it hadn't been set. But we were talking about it. Actually, even the night before, we were discussing a lot of things, which is very, very hard to think of. But in some way, I think -- I feel very lucky that we could have that time together, because normally we would travel all the time around the whole world. And we didn't have much time together. So I think it was a gift for us to be reunited together before we got separated.

KING: So you were close to picking a date?

NEMCOVA: Yes.

KING: What happened?

NEMCOVA: The day before or the day after?

KING: The day of.

NEMCOVA: The day of? Well, the morning, we woke up very early because the night before, it was the 25th, we were celebrating Christmas on the beach and talking about plans for the future, about children, all these things. Then we went back to the bungalow. And we watched the "White Christmas." I don't know if you know that movie.

KING: Who doesn't know it? Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kay, Vera Ellen.

NEMCOVA: Yes. Well, I had never seen it before. So Simon was, like, you have to watch it. So we start watching it that night. And we saw maybe half of it. We got really tired. And so we were, like, OK, let's watch it tomorrow.

The next morning on the 26th we woke up very early. I'm usually up very early, around 7:30, And Simon asked if -- what do you want to do? Do you watch the movie or do you want to go for a walk on the beach? And I'm, like, let's watch half an hour of the movie and then go for a walk.

And we watched it then. It was one of the most precious, beautiful moments. We went for a beautiful walk, romantic walk on the beach.

KING: It was a beautiful day right?

NEMCOVA: It was a stunning day. And we were kind of singing -- you know the song, sister, sisters.

KING: Never searched the world for sisters...

NEMCOVA: Yes, that's the one. And we were bad singers, so we were singing it. We were singing brothers, brothers. We had an amazing time.

And then we went for dinner -- for dinner -- for breakfast and came back to the bungalow. And started packing. We were supposed to leave in two hours' time.

Simon was in the bathroom when everything happened. But it was just crazy how something can go from fairy tale to a nightmare. And in a split second, you lose everything.

KING: You were in the shower?

NEMCOVA: No, I was packing, and Simon was in the bathroom.

KING: What's the first thing you remember happening? Did you hear a sound?

NEMCOVA: Well, the first thing, I just catched through my eye, because we had this balcony windows. And I caught through my eye, like, people running. Then I looked out of the window. And people were running away, screaming, trying to jump into the pool.

And it was just like what's happening? It was just so surreal. And I was -- my first word was maybe it's an earthquake or something. And then the water started to come in. It was literally a split of seconds.

And Simon was still in the bathroom. And he was just screaming, Petra! Petra! What's happening? And I didn't know what was happening, so I didn't answer. But in no time, the glass broked. And, you know, it took us out of the bungalow.

KING: Both of you?

NEMCOVA: Both of us.

KING: Together?

NEMCOVA: Together. And it was, again, screaming Petra! Petra! And I just saw a roof. So, I told him, catch the roof. That was the only thing I could see we could -- you know, we could do. And it was the last time I saw him.

KING: He missed the roof?

NEMCOVA: I don't know what happened. I catched the roof.

KING: You caught the roof?

NEMCOVA: I caught the roof. Yes, I did. But there was luck and no luck in the same time. Because by catching it, I got sucked under it. And my legs, they got stuck. And they got pushed by this hugely powerful force of water. And the trees and everything, all the garbage was crushing and breaking my pelvis many, many times.

So, I was just screaming out of lungs. I thought it was the last moments before I got squashed. KING: What did you hang on to?

NEMCOVA: Well, before hanging on to a tree, there was lots of other things happening. Because I was trying to -- after a while, the pressure released itself. So I was, like, that's my chance to go on the roof, actually. By then another wave came, and I was under the water for a long time. And I had stopped fighting, stopped kicking.

KING: Thought you were going to die?

NEMCOVA: Yes.

And it was actually, in some way, it was really peaceful. I wasn't afraid. I was very -- the whole time through, I was very calm and focused. And I was making lots of prayers and sending energy to people and thinking of Simon and all the people there.

KING: Did you see people going by you?

NEMCOVA: In that moment, in this moment before catching the tree, not really. But then when I -- when the water and the layer of garbage released me again, then I saw people and, you know, screams and all these things.

KING: How long did you hang on to the tree?

NEMCOVA: About eight hours.

KING: Stretched like this?

NEMCOVA: Well, the wave was ten and-a-half meters high, which means that -- it came up to the top of the palm tree. So I was -- the first palm tree I tried to catch I couldn't, because the current was too strong. So the second one, I was able to catch the branch, which I held on to. And I held it first like that.

But because of my broken pelvis, I couldn't stand on my feet, even the water kind of makes everything easier, I couldn't hold on to it for long. But then I found a way how to actually find a more comfortable position by which I had to change every few minutes, because of the pain.

KING: Your arms were hurting too, weren't they?

NEMCOVA: The arms and the pelvis. And the water was slowly decreasing, which meant more I was out of the water, the more pain I had.

KING: Did you see bodies going by you?

NEMCOVA: I didn't see bodies. But I heard lots of screams. And one of the worst things, just you hear people and children screaming. And after half an hour, you don't hear them anymore. And you know they don't have the strength to hold on.

KING: We'll be right back with Petra Nemcova. We'll be taking calls later and how she recovered from all this and goes on. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we get back to the story a couple things we -- among the projects that she and Simon worked on together were 2005 pinnup calendar, right -- for the AIDS charity amfAR. The photos taken about a year ago, right?

NEMCOVA: Yes. Actually...

KING: We're showing some of them now.

NEMCOVA: It was (INAUDIBLE) and next week, there is a kind of festival. And it was exactly a year ago when we took a couple of pictures in Khan and then a couple up in London.

KING: And also, you saw a boy with a prosthetic arm and then saw him again?

NEMCOVA: Yes. Yes. It was...

KING: When you were walking on the beach is when you first saw him, right?

NEMCOVA: We saw him in a complex of the hotel. We talked about him with Simon, because he was just so full of life. And he was like any other kid. He was playing. And just when I was in the bungalow and everything was happening, I saw him again jumping into the pool. And I was worried for him, how he will be able to hold on to anything because he had only one arm, which he could use properly. And I was so revealed (sic) when I -- after they were bringing me, and they found me, and they saved me, I was so happy to see him walking and he was OK.

KING: He was...

NEMCOVA: He was OK. It was wonderful.

KING: There are some joys. The power is and force of the water tore off all your clothing?

NEMCOVA: Yes.

KING: So you're nude during all of this?

NEMCOVA: Yes, and it's the last thing you think of, Larry, I must say. It didn't matter.

KING: It didn't matter to you, did it?

NEMCOVA: It didn't matter to -- you know, it's just -- it didn't matter. It was the last thing I think of when I was in a tree. We didn't know if there would be anyone actually coming and finding us.

KING: Was anyone else on the tree with you? NEMCOVA: No. It was just me. No, I was -- Because of the different currents, I was kind of hidden. It was like almost in a jungle because it was bringing so much trash and things. But I've heard people being on other trees. And it was very -- I had to watch everything. You know, the tree, the cracks of the tree, because it could mean that the tree could fall in the water and take me with it at any time.

KING: Did it almost break?

NEMCOVA: Well, there was so much trash kind of leaning on it, it didn't break.

KING: The trash held it up?

NEMCOVA: No. The trash was -- the trash was breaking it, but it was holding. And my friend, she said, "You know, you hold on to the tree for eight hours." But actually, the tree was holding you as well in some way because it could let me anytime. It could break anytime. So, when I got back to Thailand, definitely one of things which I would love to do -- it's a first to be able to plant -- plant new palm trees for a new life for a city. And another one to find this tree which I was holding to.

KING: Do you think you'll find it?

NEMCOVA: Hopefully. Hopefully, I will find it. Maybe they start already building things there, I don't know.

KING: How close did you come to falling?

NEMCOVA: To falling?

KING: From the tree?

NEMCOVA: Well, the tree, as I say, it was water just up to the top of the palm tree, so...

KING: Did you think a lot that you bought it?

NEMCOVA: That I -- sorry?

KING: That it was over?

NEMCOVA: Yes, definitely. I just was -- three times, I thought, that's it. And then when I was on the tree, it was just -- it was strange. I was very calm and very focused. I was just feeling very much one with the nature. In a strange way I was upset the nature.

KING: Really?

I was angry. I just felt more like the nature was screaming for help.

KING: Did you -- did it feel like eight hours? NEMCOVA: It didn't feel like eight hours, actually. And I think I went unconscious probably two times. And it felt long, but I think it didn't feel like eight hours. So I must have been out for a while.

KING: How were you rescued?

NEMCOVA: How I was rescued was there were two Thai men coming, and they saw me. And they tried to lift me up and take me. They're, like, "We're going to carry you on our shoulders." I couldn't even sit down. It was like it's so painful. I can't. I'm sorry. So they went away. Then one of them came back again. And at first, they brought me water, then some, you know, juice. And I didn't even know they were going to actually come back. And because there were so many people which they were screaming for help. So, I was just -- I was just so happy that they came back.

And they came back the third time, two of them, with a few other Thai men. And then Swedish men as well. The amazing thing on it was these people, they were sacrificing their lives to save others. Because anytime could come another wave. It was just amazing to see how people, they forgot themselves for others. It's just incredible. It was -- these people inspired me, and I think they inspired lots of other people. Not just that situation, but people giving the last thing they had, people -- the doctors, the nurses, they were incredible, coming to New Year's Eve, 11:30, to the hospital, because I was in pain from their houses, just amazing.

KING: We'll discuss the injuries and how she recovered and get on with more of the extraordinary story of the events, of course, that changed her life forever. We're taking your calls as well. We'll be right back with supermodel Petra Nemcova. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Will you continue your career?

NEMCOVA: At the moment, Larry, I live day by day. One of the things which I've learned from it all, from this -- it's amazing how some -- such a tragical experience can bring so much love and so much -- can teach you so much. So one of the things which I've learned to really live in the moment and live fullest. And it's actually as well a message which Simon left behind. He loved life. He enjoyed every moment. He loved his family, his friends. And one of his favorite sayings was, "the day without laughter is a day wasted." And that's how I tried to live, and also his family and friends. We tried to just live fully and remember that.

KING: What were your injuries?

NEMCOVA: My injuries? Well, my pelvis was broken in four places. I had lots of internal bleeding and hematoma on my (ph) kidneys. My stomach was swollen like a football. It was -- I had lots of scars all over my legs, arms, back, shoulders. It was lots of happening. And the doctors, they were amazed how quickly I recovered. My scars, my bones.

KING: How long were you in the hospital?

NEMCOVA: I was in the hospital in Thailand about three weeks, and then another three weeks in Czech. But I'm already, like, one month without crutches. And it's -- they couldn't believe it. And I strongly believed that one of the reasons why, it's because of universal energy. I've been treating myself, healing myself with this -- with energy. And it's just been incredible to see all this progress.

And there was one thing in Thailand in the hospital, they were checking -- they were doing a CAT scan on the bleeding and on the hematoma. And a few days later, they checked again, and it was all gone. And they couldn't believe it.

KING: You believe in self-created energy?

NEMCOVA: Well, what I've learned already for, like, six years, it's about how to receive universal energy from the source. And it helped me in the most difficult time in my life, in this experience.

KING: How about your family? Did they think you were dead?

NEMCOVA: Well, my family, they were -- all my friends, they didn't sleep, they were trying to search. And also, it is amazing. They forgoed themselves for -- to find me, and other people as well. Actually, I didn't expect that so many people would try to look for me. When I found out how many people were searching, I was, like, oh, my God. I was, like, I was amazed that so many people cared. And not just about me.

KING: How did they find out? Someone let them know?

NEMCOVA: Well, it was lots of different people from different directions, searching. And my -- lots of my friends. And some of them, they were in Thailand. Two of them were in Thailand. And some of them tried to search.

KING: Found you at the hospital?

NEMCOVA: Yes. They were finding me.

KING: Nude out in the sun eight hours. Did you have skin damage?

NEMCOVA: Well, I have some scars, but they're almost healed. It was hard to be in the sun for that long. What I was trying to do to -- actually, I -- when the guy -- I was trying to always freshen myself with the water, with the black water. And when the water went down, it was like I couldn't reach it anymore, because I couldn't move. So when the guys came, I asked him for a T-shirt so I could take the T-shirt and put it down into water and put it on my back and my head, so like this I could stay awake.

KING: Are you all done with the medical attention, or do you still require work? NEMCOVA: Well, at the moment, I just have to keep on doing my exercises every day. So I'm going to stay out of the pain. But I'm 98 percent healed.

KING: No more treatments needed?

NEMCOVA: No, no more treatments. I'm fully back, and I'm very excited, and looking forward to the future.

KING: What was the hardest thing? The pelvis?

NEMCOVA: Yeah. I couldn't -- I couldn't put -- I couldn't move my legs even a millimeter. It was so painful. And it was amazing, because really, it made me appreciate every little thing. I felt like a newborn baby, learning how to sit down, how to stand up, how to walk. And I took a shower after 25 days. It was one of the most amazing moments. And it just really makes you appreciate how lucky we are. And it was -- it was great.

KING: But you're going through sadness at the same time.

NEMCOVA: For sure.

KING: You've lost the love of your life.

NEMCOVA: I've lost the love of my life. But I feel at the same time, sure, there are moments when I'm down and are sad, but I feel like if I go sad, I try to stay positive and optimistic, because if I go sad, people around me, all my friends and family, they will go down as well. And I don't want them -- I want them to enjoy life. I want to enjoy every precious moment with them.

KING: You certainly have that. We're going to take a break and come back. We'll take your phone calls for Petra. It's her first live appearance since all of this. And we'll ask her why she's going back to Thailand. One would think she might have some bitter feelings.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll take your calls for Petra Nemcova.

Tomorrow night, Sylvester Stallone. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Extraordinary story. Extraordinary lady. The beautiful Petra Nemcova, supermodel, "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition" cover girl. Her first live interview since the December tsunami.

Before we go to calls. Why are you going back to Thailand? One would think if you never saw it again, you'd be happy enough.

NEMCOVA: No, no, no. Since I was still in Thailand in a hospital, in a bed, I was thinking of going back and helping people. And my heart was jumping. So finally, I get a chance. I'm going next week. And I'm going to go to say, first of all, thank you to the doctors and the nurses and go and see schools, talk to the people and see for myself.

I want to get a feel of what's need there. What I can do. How the survivors are doing, and how I can help. Because I know there was lots of help coming already, but I want to see what I can do to help people which helped me.

KING: Both presidents Clinton and Bush expressed dismay this week that apparently fund-raising had decreased because out of sight, out of mind. People have forgotten.

NEMCOVA: Yes, yes. It was extraordinarily how much people there were, thinking about this and helping. And through that, I would like to say thank you to everyone who donated, supported everyone in those affected areas. It's amazing how something so tragical can bring so much love for everyone.

In an amazing way, you know, you just realize that we are all the same. That each of us, we have very -- just one precious life. And from my experience, the nature didn't choose if you are from Thailand, if you are Czech or American we were all the same. And I wanted to say thank you for helping. I know it decreased, the help, because for a moment, everybody...

KING: Then we forget.

NEMCOVA: ...you know, understanding and trying to help. But the help there, it's going to be needed for a long time. It's not even one year. It might be ten years. It was just a strong disaster that the people there will suffer for a long time.

KING: Last Sunday night in Las Vegas, we raised over $1 million for UNICEF with Celine Dion doing a performance. It was wonderful. I hope that continues.

Let's take calls for Petra. British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Petra. My condolences go out to you and your fiance's family.

My question to you tonight is, some people have said that on that morning, they noticed before the tsunami hit, the ocean had receded for as long as the eye could see. Did you and your fiance notice on your romantic walk the tide was odd or different than it had been on other mornings you were there?

KING: Good question.

NEMCOVA: Thank you very much for the question. Well, when I walked on the beach with Simon, we noticed a little bit that the water decreased, but it was a full moon. And as you know, with a full moon, the waters movements are strange and different.

So I thought it was that. I didn't think of anything else. And I wish in that moment that I would know how to recognize, actually, a tsunami. I never learned how to recognize the signs. I have never learned how to react when something like this is happening.

KING: Did you know what it was?

NEMCOVA: I didn't -- the water, I thought it was the full moon. And when something happened, I didn't know it was a tsunami. I didn't know. I've never heard -- you know, at school, I didn't learn.

I wish that, you know, I think it would be great to have something for -- because in Japan, they're prepared for earthquakes. They know since they are little what to do. But now we travel so much, and there can be anything happening to each of us, just to know how recognize things, if it's an earthquake or mudslide, if it's a tsunami, how to recognize it, or how to react to it.

Now I know, if there is an earthquake, you have to just go under the door. So if the wall falls down, it falls down from the back, but it doesn't fall on you.

KING: Did you feel the water rising again?

NEMCOVA: Well, the water -- there was one wave, and there was a second wave. So, I didn't, actually, the water was not rising. It was more decreasing.

KING: Receding.

Whiting, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Petra, I have a good question for you. It deals with your broken hip. Have you had to require any more surgeries or bone grafts or anything to help correct any problems with your hips?

NEMCOVA: Thank you very much for the question.

Well, I was lucky enough that my fractures, they were stable. So I didn't need surgery. Some doctors, they said there could have been could have been a surgery, because my pelvis was broken but also twisted.

For the moment, I've been lucky enough that I don't need anything else. So, I'm very -- I feel very, very lucky. But the doctors, they were amazing. They were doing amazing jobs. So thank you to all the doctors over there.

KING: Did you need any skin peels?

NEMCOVA: No. I think the scars, they will heal. They're almost healed. You know, my body's been healing amazingly.

KING: You look like you've self-healed.

NEMCOVA: Yes. Well, I think definitely doctors, nurses, everybody was amazing. But also, the energy was helping me so much. Not just to recover physically, but also emotionally, getting lots of strength -- and helped me as well through all this happening, through the powerful force affecting my body and the pain, I stayed very calm and very focused.

KING: Our guest is Petra Nemcova. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEMCOVA: And there were a few little islands in the background. So, it was fabulous.

It wasn't the easiest shot, I must say, as the first time, because there was nothing, and I was lying on the sand, but the water was coming in. So it was all over my face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take the next call, what makes "Sports Illustrated" such fun to do?

NEMCOVA: You know what? It's because there's more -- the "Sports Illustrated" is like a big family for me. And I love them so much.

KING: All your models are together, right?

NEMCOVA: Yeah. You know, usually it's maybe two, three, sometimes you are just by yourself, but Diane and everybody there -- I want to say hello to all of them.

KING: It means a lot to the career, too, doesn't it?

NEMCOVA: Yeah. It's -- they've been amazing.

KING: Minneapolis for Petra Nemcova, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I'd like to ask, what do you believe kept you hanging on for eight hours, and do you believe in God and have faith in God?

NEMCOVA: Yes, definitely. I do believe. I'm not Christian or Buddhist, but I do believe in God. I have believed in fate as well. It's -- there are some things which we can't influence and which we can't change. So it just makes you realize that there's greater power than we have. And sometimes we think we're much more powerful than anything else, and we don't appreciate things enough. But I believe in fate. And as I say, I've been also doing things with energy, and it helped me to understand things about certain laws of the universe. Or it's been helping me for six years. And I just feel very thankful.

KING: Did you ever lose faith, hanging on that tree? Did you ever say...

NEMCOVA: No. KING: Never said it's over?

NEMCOVA: No, I never lose faith, even when there was a moment when I stopped fighting, stopped kicking. It was very peaceful. And I felt very -- you know, I just -- I didn't...

KING: Accept it -- you wouldn't accept it.

NEMCOVA: I accepted it, and it was actually beautiful. And I didn't have a fear.

KING: What was beautiful?

NEMCOVA: Just I let it go. I'm, like, OK, it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen. It didn't. They still need me here.

KING: Do you consider yourself lucky?

NEMCOVA: Very much so. I feel very, very lucky.

KING: Blessed?

NEMCOVA: Definitely. Definitely. And I have probably a few guardian angels looking after me.

KING: Do you ever feel -- sometimes people feel when they come out of something, guilt. Why me? Why did I live and Simon die?

NEMCOVA: Well, definitely, you ask yourself why. Why this? Why that? And why me? And why so many people, they passed away, and just -- and children and all this. You ask, but as I said, there are certain things which we can't change and we can't influence.

KING: It is what it is.

NEMCOVA: Yes.

KING: Linwood, New Jersey, hello.

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My question for Petra is, if she thinks she'll ever be able to fall in love again.

KING: Good question.

NEMCOVA: If?

KING: Fall in love again.

NEMCOVA: Oh, well, at the moment, it's too soon. But I am looking for the future, whatever it brings. So in some point, probably it will happen, but at the moment, it's just too soon for anything. KING: You want to have a family?

NEMCOVA: Definitely. And I know that maybe sounds crazy, but I know that Simon would want me to be happy, and also his family, his friends. So I know he's just there looking after all of us and just saying, you know, enjoy your life, live it fullest. And that's how I'm doing it. His family, his friends. We're just, like, always -- anything I'm doing, I'm just thinking, let's say, like a year ago, I would get an invitation to go for a concert. I would say, oh, I'm too busy, I need to do that work, this work. And like, no, I (ph) said (ph) we would do it. So he would go enjoy himself, so I'm, like, OK, let's do it.

Even after the funeral, we got all of us together and we went dancing, because that's what he would do. He would celebrate the life. And I was still on one crutch and I was dancing. It was amazing. It's -- that's how he would want it.

KING: Vancouver, hello.

CALLER: Oh, hi there.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My question for Petra is, I guess firstly, I just want to say how inspiring your story, your strength and your spirit are. I'd like to know how Simon's family and your family are doing now.

NEMCOVA: Thank you so much for asking. It's very kind. Before I answer the question, I just wanted to say also, thank you to everyone who was thinking of me and who were sending me love and amazing letters.

One of them I have to mention. I got this letters from a class of 6-year-old children. And each of them sent me a personal letter with drawings and wishes to a fast recovery. It was just very touching, so thank you to all of you. And...

KING: The family, how's Simon's family?

NEMCOVA: Well, it's still very fresh, because only Wednesday, two days ago, there was a memorial service in England with the queen. It is just really still fresh in everyone's life. But I know that they know that he would want them to be happy.

KING: Do the families know each other well, your family and his?

NEMCOVA: Well, they never met each other, because obviously my family lives in Czech, quite far away.

KING: And where is he from?

NEMCOVA: He's from London, so his family is a little bit -- like one hour from London.

But Simon met my whole family. I met his whole family. And we are -- you know, they're so connected now. You know, the whole tragedy brought us so, so close, and -- with his friends, with his family. And his mom said an amazing thing. I hope she -- excuse me if I say it, but it was so touching. She said, "I lost my son, but I have two daughters now." And it's just very special. So they're amazing, incredible, inspiring people.

KING: Back with more of Petra Nemcova right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I was asking Petra during the break about whether she thought for a while Simon might be alive.

NEMCOVA: Well, I didn't think that he wouldn't make it, because he was such a strong swimmer.

KING: You thought he would make it?

NEMCOVA: Yeah, I thought he would make it. He was very fit. And like if I made it, he -- I thought he would have made it as well. And I had a strong belief that he is somewhere there for a long time. And until I went -- still when I was in Czech at the first few days, I thought he is maybe somewhere in the hospital, unconscious, which was already three weeks after. And then I slowly started to realize that he's not...

KING: And they found the body?

NEMCOVA: Yes, they did. They found the body.

KING: So there was a burial?

NEMCOVA: Yeah, there was a cremation, and then we had two days later a funeral, which was actually incredible, I must say.

KING: In where? London?

NEMCOVA: It was in London -- it was outside of London at his school. And it was just so beautiful. I just wanted to sit there, and I never wanted to let it end -- the funeral. His friends, his family was talking about him. There was lots of tears, but lots of smiles. We -- people were laughing.

KING: Did you talk?

NEMCOVA: I didn't get the strength to talk. But we played silly songs which he loved. I don't know if you know "Especially for You" from Kelly (ph) and Jason (ph). And it made people laugh. So, it was such a -- there was so much love around. It was amazing.

KING: Sherman Oaks, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, Petra.

KING: Hi. CALLER: Yes, I was in the tsunami over there myself on the center of Baton Beach (ph) about 150 meters, approximately, from the water when it came. And the wave height at that time was probably a lot smaller around 10, 10-ish, 10 feet, approximately. My question, where you were, where were you? And you said because you're up high in the tree, and, you know, thank God that worked for you and everything. And I'm sorry about your fiance. But yes, so the height of the wave and the tsunami in different areas apparently is higher and maybe has more force, et cetera.

KING: So your question is what, sir?

CALLER: Pardon me?

KING: Your question is what?

CALLER: Is that you said the wave was -- Petra, you said the wave was approximately 10 meters high where it was, and that might have helped you to get up onto that tree?

KING: Right. What's the question?

CALLER: My question is, where I was, it was a lot smaller.

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: The question is...

KING: OK. I think he was -- the question was, where were you? You were in Phuket, right?

NEMCOVA: No, I was north of Phuket, in Khao Lak. In different places, the height was different. In the place where I was, actually, to answer the question why it was so high, because Khao Lak is a bit farther from the beach, there were mountains, so the water didn't have anywhere to go. So it actually came back, which made -- you know, the wave was ten and a half...

KING: The question was, why was it so high? You understood the question.

NEMCOVA: I understood the question.

KING: Next week you'll host.

NEMCOVA: It was especially high in Khao Lak because of the mountains there, so it didn't have anywhere to go.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more with the delightful Petra Nemcova. What a story. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You were raised in communist China -- in Czech Slovakia, right?

NEMCOVA: Yes, that's correct.

KING: What did you live, in one room?

NEMCOVA: No, no, it wasn't that bad. But we had -- we couldn't get an apartment for a long time, rather my parents. But it was hard in a way that we couldn't -- we didn't have enough money to buy things like fruit. Even fruit to get clementines mandarins for Christmas. It was a special treat to have. I had pair of winter shoes for five years. And it makes you appreciate every little thing.

KING: Chicago, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Petra, I'd like to know what you were thinking about that gave you the strength to hang on to that tree.

NEMCOVA: Thank you so much for the question. I was just -- as I said, I was just praying and sending energy. I was just letting whatever was supposed to happen would happen. I was very focused, very calm. And to -- watching everything.

KING: But all the horror around you, didn't that affect you, the screaming, the yelling, the death -- the death around you?

NEMCOVA: There was death around me, but I was luck -- I was just -- I just -- it's strange how you react, you know, in such a tragic situation. And I was very calm and very focused, first of all. I just whatever -- I believed whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen. And I just could watch, you know, different currents coming, because they were bringing trash which was trapping my legs and different things. But I was -- as I say, I was very in peace, and I was just feeling one with nature.

KING: Tell me about that locket.

NEMCOVA: Oh, yes. Well, this locket, I got it the first night when I was in the hospital in Khao Lak. And...

KING: Hold it up a little.

NEMCOVA: Yes. There's a Buddha on it.

KING: A what?

NEMCOVA: A Buddha. And I got it from a Thai man which was lying next to me. And probably he lost everything, his family. He lost everything where he had. And the last thing he had was this necklace on his...

KING: And he gave it to you?

NEMCOVA: And he gave it to complete stranger -- complete stranger. And that's how amazing people, they were. They were -- they were just so inspiring thinking of others. And each of them, the jewelry, the hardware which I have on me has a special meaning. And...

KING: You where beads and -- all these have meanings?

NEMCOVA: Yes. Well, this one, actually, is from Thailand. The first time I went to Thailand, I got these rainbow beads. And this one is from one of the charities which I'm in contact with. Next week when I go there, I'm going to do research myself. But I've been in contact already with them -- Force of Nature which is from Malaysia, and it's an amazing charity. They've done lots of things. It's supported by Russell Simmons and Jackie Chan. And there are two other Thai charities which, one of them is -- it's difficult names, excuse me if I say it wrong. It's Khurra Corn (ph) University which is focused on mental health of the -- or like psychological health of the children affected by the horror. And the second one is focusing on rebuilding the schools.

KING: How long will you spend there?

NEMCOVA: I will spend maybe two weeks there. And I will go and see myself, personally, what's need and how I can help.

KING: And you will look for the tree.

NEMCOVA: I will look for the tree as well. I will spread the ashes as well. It's one of things. And -- it will be quite hard trip. I think it will bring lots answers to my questions. And in some way it will start -- it will end -- it will give a closure to one part, but brings also a new life as well.

KING: Here's the life.

NEMCOVA: Oh.

KING: Thank you.

NEMCOVA: Thank you.

KING: Petra Nemcova, what a story.

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