This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 13, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: we begin a special two- part series about what happens after we die. Is there an afterlife? Obviously, a vital question. And most Americans believe there is.
According to an ABC News poll, 90 percent of us say death is not the end. It certainly wasn't for Don Piper, who was pronounced clinically dead after a car crash back in 1989. Mr. Piper was even put in a body bag.
What happened after that is an amazing tale chronicled in his best-selling book, "90 Minutes in Heaven." I spoke with Mr. Piper a few days ago.
O'REILLY: So, Mr. Piper, you're driving down a narrow lane. You see a tractor-trailer coming dead at you. Pick it up from there.
DON PIPER, DIED FOR 90 MINUTES: Well, I was hit head-on. I had no idea. It was a narrow highway. I had nowhere to go. I'm on a bridge, and he hits me head-on with such impact that the wheels of the driver's side of the truck roll over my car, crush me in it, shove it up against the railing of the bridge, and I'm killed instantly.
O'REILLY: Now you — when you say you were killed, you're sitting here.
O'REILLY: So what is the definition of you being killed?
PIPER: Well, there was a four-car pileup. So as it happened, four sets of EMTs came out to the bridge location to check on everybody. Everybody else was fine except me. So they all focused on me, and they all did all the tests at their disposal. They all concluded the same thing: I was a fatality.
The body was covered up with a waterproof tarp, because it was raining, and they waited for someone to come and take the body away.
O'REILLY: All right. So you were actually covered head to toe, no breathing hole or anything? You're there.
O'REILLY: So you are, according to these medical people, done. Then what happens in your mind? What's going on in your mind?
PIPER: Well, immediately I was standing at some magnificent gates surrounded by people I had known and loved in life. So when I saw them, I knew where I was, because I knew where they were. I knew I was at the Gates of Heaven.
O'REILLY: Now when you saw people that you had known who had passed away before you, were they in human form, body form?
PIPER: In a sense they were. They were all fully recognizable as themselves, so yes, they were tangible. I could see them. And they were all perfect. Many of them I had known in life had died at an elderly age or maybe they'd had a traumatic accident themselves. But when I saw them they were all ageless.
O'REILLY: But you say in your book you didn't see God or Jesus or anybody like that?
PIPER: In the distance as I was approaching the gate — I'm often asked about this, as you might imagine. There really are a lot of magnificent structures inside the gate. And at the pinnacle of a great hill beyond them is a bright light. I have the distinct feeling that that is where God — and I was headed in that direction when suddenly I was returned to earth.
O'REILLY: Now how did that happen? You were returned to earth how? What was the — what do you remember?
PIPER: All I remember is being at the gates and about to enter after a lot of other magnificent things that I saw and heard. As it turns out, 90 minutes after the truck hit me, a man climbed into the car and, because he felt like God, spoke to him, started praying over me, even though he knew I was dead.
Suddenly, I found myself back in the car under the tarp in the dark. He's singing a hymn, and he's making me sing it with him. And I had no idea what had happened to me.
O'REILLY: What about a doctor, a scientist, somebody saying to you, look, you had a head trauma and when you have a head trauma, all things — and you are a believer, you know, from the jump.
O'REILLY: I mean, a very religious man. This was in your mind. Head trauma, hallucinations. It's real to you, but it isn't really real.
PIPER: Well, it's actually the most real thing that's ever happened to me. It now defines my reality here. I know how temporary this is. I mean, we know we all — none of us gets out of this life alive.
O'REILLY: Well, I guess the bottom line is if somebody doesn't believe you and, you know, some people watching right now are not going to, is there anything you can do or say to make them believe?
PIPER: This is a very remarkable, unique situation. I saw things there that I wouldn't have expected to see if I was having a dream. I saw people there that I didn't expect to see. There were a lot of things about my experience that convince me in no uncertain terms that that is reality and this is fleeting. This is passing. I can't wait to go back there. I didn't want to come back here.
O'REILLY: Mr. Piper, thanks very much for talking with us. We appreciate it.
PIPER: Thank you so much.
O'REILLY: Big best-seller. Thursday we're going to tell you what each religion believes about the afterlife, and some of that may surprise you.
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