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A year after tsunami, Nemcova's life changed

Supermodel talks about adjusting after tragedy and her new book
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December 26th will mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating tsunami that swept across South Asia, killing over 200,000 people.  In a matter of seconds, and without any warning, entire towns and villages once bustling with life were completely wiped off the map. 

On Friday, tsunami survivor supermodel Petra Nemcova joined MSNBC's Rita Cosby on 'Live and Direct.' Nemcova recently authored a book entitled 'Love Always, Petra:  A Story of Courage and the Discovery of Life's Hidden Gifts,' that chronicles the day that changed her life forever. 

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY: Petra it's amazing.  You look great.  How are you holding up?  How are you doing? 

NEMCOVA:  I'm very good.  Thank you very much.  Good evening to everyone.  Yes, I'm recovered and, you know, back here, so...

COSBY:  Well, it's great to see you.  How has your year been?  I mean, it's incredible, when I realize that the anniversary was coming up.  It's amazing a year has passed.  How is that process for you? 

NEMCOVA:  Well, I can't believe that it's almost a year.  And this year has been quite an incredible year, with lots of changes and lots of learning. 

And, yes, it just-there were many difficult moments, but also many beautiful moments, of having so many people sharing unconditional love with me and others.  And it's been so wonderful to see that there is so much love in us and so much beauty that we can show to others. 

And this year has been difficult, not just for people in Asia, which they went through a tsunami, but also Katrina, Rita, and Pakistan.  And it just shows that, you know, people, they do care, and they help each other.  I think that's very important to remember to help each other, because maybe today somebody in Asia needs help, but maybe tomorrow we might need help. 

COSBY:  No, good point.  And as you mentioned, it happened here.  And so we know all too well the struggle of human nature and the effects of it. 

You know, you lost the love of your life.  I've heard so many about Simon Atlee, a wonderful photographer, but he was someone very special to you that day.  Tell us about him. 

NEMCOVA:  Well, he was an incredible person, somebody who loved people, who made them feel special, if anybody, if it was a driver or somebody very important.  And he made them laugh.  His favorite saying was a day without laughter is a day wasted.  And that's how we tried to live, his family, his friends, and me.  We tried to make people laugh and enjoy every moment 100 percent. 

COSBY:  What happened that day with the tsunami?  Walk us through it.  I've heard just some incredible stories that you were clinging to a palm tree.  Walk us through what you remember. 

NEMCOVA:  Well, there was more to it than just walking-just holding onto a palm tree.  That morning was a beautiful morning, the blue sky.  And nobody thought that it will turn into a nightmare. 

And we were about to leave with Simon in two hours time.  And I was packing.  And suddenly, I heard screams and people running from-then I look up.  And people were running from side-to-side frantically.  And I thought maybe there was an earthquake. 

But then the wave came.  And it was about 10 and a half meters high wave.  And then it broke all the windows.  It swept us out of the bungalow.  And that was just the beginning. 

Then I got-that was the last time I saw Simon.  And I got trapped.  And my pelvis was broken four times.  And I got trapped under a layer of trash.  And I couldn't breathe.  And it was flowing, the black water, and I thought a couple of times that I will be gone in a couple of seconds and those will be my last moments.  And then, holding onto a palm tree. 

But as I say, it was so wonderful to see such unconditional love from people, which they were ready to sacrifice their lives for others, for strangers, just to save them.  And that's why "Love Always, Petra," that's why the name of the book.  It's not because of a love between man and woman, but it is because of this unconditional love, which I have seen during the tsunami. 

COSBY:  Well, it really is an incredible book, and I've seen some of the excerpts.  And I do hope people get it.  And I also want to make sure I mention the website,, with the number-two sign.  I think it's terrific you're donating all of the proceeds to this fund to help folks.  And you just keep up the wonderful work.  You're a real inspiration for a lot of folks around the globe, Petra.  Thank you so much. 

NEMCOVA:  Thank you so much.  And thank you to all of you who's going to get a book maybe for Christmas, because you do-you can feel very good about yourself, giving a gift and doing something meaningful.  So thank you and a merry Christmas to all of you. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.