When I Received a Letter From Terri Irwin #SteveIrwinDay
I woke up this morning, checked Twitter and found out it was Steve Irwin Day. I don't know how such a day had slipped past me all these years before. I knew there were normally commemorations on the day that he died etc, but a full proper day to honour and remember what he lived for, how had I not noticed that?
When I was growing up, this man dominated my morning viewing before school. In the UK, we had (I don't know if we still do) Animal Planet, and Steve was definitely their most popular asset. I remember quickly finishing my Weetabix, running into the living room and trying to catch half an hour of The Crocodile Hunter, before I had to get off to school.
The man was a machine. The way he understood these animals, almost as if he'd grown up in the wild, it was like watching a real life Dr Dolittle. I particularly remember one episode that particularly stuck in my memory. I watched it many many times and found it truly fascinating. Steve was in Madagascar. he was showing the viewer all of these weird and wonderful Lemurs and other creatures.
What struck me about that episode though, was Steve. He grew up in Australia, he was an expert in Australian animals, wrestling crocodiles and handling snakes. But here he was, in an island off the coast of Africa, handling, reacting to and telling us stories and information about these unique animals like they'd been visiting his garden for the past 10 years. There was no one so at one with wildlife, so in tune with mother nature, he quickly, alongside my own father, became my hero.
When Steve Irwin died in 2006, I was devastated. I was 10 years old and it was my first encounter with death. It was the first time that someone that in some way had an influence on my life, had died. My Mum woke me up one morning, I came to the top of the stairs and she told me. I cried. It was a sad day for me. A chunk of my childhood was taken away. I considered the man one of my unofficial teachers. Back then I wanted to do what he did (Clearly that panned out well, I write, 25 years old and writing a blog for a podcast in my pyjamas).
I felt compelled to do something. To show the Irwin family just how much this man meant to me and affected my little Childs heart. So I printed off a picture of Steve, I got all of my friends in my class to sign messages of condolences, I got my Mum to find the Address of Australia Zoo, and I sent it. I never expected anything after that. It was just something that I felt was the right thing to do at the time, and was a nice way to use my sad feelings positively.
A couple of weeks later, I was shocked to receive a letter from Australia Zoo. Not just Australia Zoo, but from Terri Irwin herself. When I think back now, how she was managing to send letters like this during her time of grief is beyond me, but it's amazing. I've attached a picture of the letter below.
My family and I were extremely surprised. I remember taking the letter into school and reading it out to my class. The strength of the Irwin family clearly didn't just come from Steve, the whole family are fierce, strong people, and they continue to be to this day.
I have never been to Australia Zoo. It has always been a dream of mine since this young age so many years ago. I follow the family on social media, and try and follow their wisdom of caring for the wildlife of the world. Perhaps one day I will be able to visit. And thank the Terri and the rest of her family in person for the impact they had on shaping my childhood, as well as affecting the hearts and minds of so many people across the world. But most importantly, fighting for the creatures on this earth that need our help the most.
- James Court #SteveIrwinDay