Petra Nemcova Makes the Most of Her Miraculous Tsunami Survival

SINemcovaCoverOn this day ten years ago, it all came catastrophically crashing down for supermodel Petra Nemcova and her photographer fiance Simon Atlee.

Per an inspiring piece by Philip Sherwell, New York-based Americas correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, Nemcova on December 26, 2004 had just caught a glimpse at her Thailand resort of the family whose story would be made into the 2012 film The Impossible, when the tsunami hit. Across the span of a few terrifying seconds, she would see Atlee for the final time, cling desperately to the roof of her resort bungalow and meet, or so she thought, her maker:

The sea swept back out and then rushed ashore in a second colossal wave, dragging Nemcova underwater again. “This time, I couldn’t get back above the surface to breathe, there was so much debris above me. I started swallowing this toxic water and I thought, ‘This is it.’

“I thought, well if I’m meant to go, so be it and I made my peace with what was happening. At that moment, I felt very light, it felt like all the particles of my body were merging into the water. It was a really extraordinary sensation.”

“And then, as soon as I let go and accepted my fate, I was back above the water and could breathe again. I will never know how that happened.”

Nemcova clung to a palm tree for eight hours, survived and, the following year, founded a non-profit called Happy Hearts Fund.  She sat down with Sherwell in New York in between opening a new school in Peru funded by her charity and heading to Thailand for a special tenth-anniversary candle lighting ceremony.

Nemcova told Sherwell that her goal when she started Happy Hearts was to have rebuilt and opened, by December 26, 2014, 100 schools in disaster-affected areas. The total in fact stands at 107. Read the rest of the article here.

[Pictured: Nemcova on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 50th Anniversary Swimsuit Edition / 2003.]

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.