The onslaught of images from Japan is harrowing to most, but it’s a completely different experience for OWN host Nate Berkus and Dancing With the Stars contender Petra Nemcova, both of whom survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This new disaster has forced Berkus and Nemcova to relive the nightmare of fighting the waters and ultimately, watching the currents steal their boyfriends from them.
Supermodel Petra Nemcova and Nate Berkus have come a long way since 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami ripped their significant others away, leaving them both battered, bruised and forced to carry on.
Seven years later, Nemcova is planning her wedding to Brit actor Jamie Belman and preparing to compete in this season’s Dancing With the Stars, while Oprah’s fave designer Nate Berkus now has his OWN show. But the images coming from the Japan tsunami have thrust them both back into the horror.
“To see (the images) on Friday morning was horrifying,” Nemcova told GMA. “My heart was broken.”
Back in 2004, Nemcova saw her Thailand vacation turn into a devastating nightmare. The model managed to keep her grip on a palm tree for eight hours, in spite of a broken pelvis. She survived, but her photog fiance Simon Atlee was swept away by the waters.
“The power is so enormous,” Nemcova recounted. “You feel powerless. You feel you can’t do anything, because the more you fight, the more you lose energy and chances for survival, so you have to try to stay calm, but there is debris of broken trees and doors, and everything is crashing on you. You’re under debris, trying to catch a breath of fresh air, and you can’t.”
Nemcova considered quitting Dancing With the Stars to help out in this newest disaster, but word is, she’s going to continue on the show and use her screen time to spread awareness.
“My heart is going out to everyone in Japan because of my experience,” Nemcova continued. “It can be up to two to 10 years until actual development can be complete in these areas, but Happy Hearts come in immediately where we rebuild schools and that’s when the kids can just be normal again. If I could ask anyone for help in Japan, I’d ask them to help in the Happy Hearts Fund.”
Nate Berkus was on Today this morning, where he revealed the disaster in Japan brings back fresh memories as the “sounds and smells come back to me.” Berkus was vacationing in Sri Lanka with his partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, when the 2004 tsunami left the couple clinging to a telephone pole. Just when they thought it was over, Bengoechea was washed away. “That was the last time I saw him,” Berkus recounted on Today.
“The first thing that I heard was the sounds of structures, trees, things collapsing and snapping and within 30 seconds of that, I was pinned under the bed,” he recounted. “The scariest part of surviving a tsunami is what you’re in the water with: It’s a soup of bodies and babies and the most horrible things you can imagine.”
While Nemcova has asked Americans to donate to Happy Hearts Fund (HHF), many are supporting the Japanese in this ongoing disaster by making text donations to a slew of organizations. However you decide to become involved, just be sure you’re giving your money and-or time to a legit organization!