Nate Berkus

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Arugam Bay was a seaside paradise, tucked away off the southeast coast of Sri Lanka. The only way there was a bridge from the nearby town of Pottuvil, a remote Shangri-La of white sandy beaches, swaying palms, world class surfing and colorful fishing boats. Arugam Bay was so far off the beaten path, only surfers and adventurous travelers had discovered this charming village. It was here at the quaint Stardust Hotel where Nate and Fernando were vacationing when the tsunami came out of nowhere.

It was 9:30 a.m. and Nate and Fernando were making plans for the day in their hotel room, a small hut about 50 feet from the shore. All of a sudden, water started pouring into the room very fast. As Fernando tried to pick things up off the floor, they suddenly heard a crack. The next thing Nate knew, he was trapped on the floor underneath the bed, his face pressed to the wall and floor, and he was covered with water.

Nate explains, "I remember thinking to myself, 'I have to get up. I have to get my face up because I can't breathe.' And in the next minute, it was really a miracle. The roof of the hut was torn off by the force of the water. And both Fernando and I were taken out of the hut and it just felt like we were drowning immediately...The force of the water was so great and the debris in the water was so extreme because...all the nails and the wood and the barbed wire—you were swirling within all of those things. So I had a lot of scratches and cuts which I didn't know how I had received, but I realized that it was because...I was in a soup of everything."