Today marks the 7 year anniversary of the death of a man that I truly admired both as a conservationist and as a passionate lover of wildlife. Steve Irwin, commonly called "the Crocodile Hunter," died after his heart was pierced by a stingray's barb on September 4, 2006. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the horrible news. I had just returned home from an Iraq deployment some 2 weeks earlier and on that fateful day I was doing what I loved, hunting frogs and snakes with my good friend Zach Orr in the eastern part of North Carolina. Zach was looking for eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and I was looking for tiny grass frogs. We had a good day searching for wildlife, although we didn't find the diamondbacks Zach hoped to see.
Steve Irwin came on the scene when I was in middle school and it gave me validation for the passions I already had. I remember watching his show in awe because for the first time I saw someone, an adult, doing the things I loved and it was okay. His passion was infectious, his enthusiasm was contagious, and his self-taught knowledge of all things wild was refreshing. He learned from the classroom of nature and clearly knew his subject well. When I heard the devastating news about his passing when I returned from my snake hunt it was met with disbelief. How many times had we heard this before, it seemed every couple of weeks some rumor would surface about Steve being eaten by a Croc or bitten by a tiger snake; but a stingray? No way! Sadly, the rumors were true and after the initial shock of it I remember feeling this huge void inside of me. Like I had truly lost a friend, a mentor, and teacher. I remember sobbing like a family member had died. I still feel sad when I watch his shows online to this day.
Steve's love of both people and wildlife was translated through TV screens all over the world. Whether he was catching snakes in Australia, building zoos in Southeast Asia or mingling with villagers in India, Steve was happy. His smile lit up our living room as we watched his show, his laugh warmed our hearts and his love for what he did challenged us to find something to be passionate about. Although I'm sad to see Steve gone, I am encouraged to hopefully one day have some similar level of influence in the world.
My heart has always been to take the passions God has given me to reach a world searching for that light. Steve's influence on my life is hopefully evident in the Catching Creation episodes that we make. If it wasn't for that influence, the format and style of not only my show, but many many other wildlife shows wouldn't exist today. His up close and personal documentary method has been a formula that many have imitated over the years but none have duplicated. Although I realize Catching Creation pales in comparison to the Crocodile Hunter, I pray that one day we will be on par with the example set by Steve Irwin. What are you passionate about? What are you doing with that passion?
Check out this OLD episode from the early days of Catching Creation: