Like many ten-year olds, my son looked up to Steve Irwin. He looks up to anyone who is passionate about conserving animals and the natural world. The "Crocodile Hunter" was for my son what Jacques Cousteau was to my generation of conservationists: He brought places and species from around the world into our living rooms in a captivating way.
Regardless of what you think of his wacky, over-the-top style, and as dangerous as most of the situations Irwin put himself in on TV, his was always a message of the importance of conserving the animals and natural diversity.
Truth be told, we don't have cable, so catching Irwin in his element was a guilty pleasure in hotel rooms or at grandma's house, where we'd hear the Crocodile Hunter shout his trademark "Crikey" or talk about beautiful "Sheilas" as he held them up to the camera. Irwin achieved "rock-star" status as a conservationist; to my son, he was a hero.
So the news that Irwin had been killed by a fatal encounter with a stingray was quite a shock to our home.
Last year, my son took part in a saltwater crocodile survey in Mexico's Sian Ka'an. He got to hold and tag a baby croc and re-release it into the wild. It was one of his proudest moments. "It's like the Crocodile Hunter," he exclaimed.
I speak for my son and for many kids (and adults!) out there when I say Steve Irwin will be missed. "Crikey," it's hard to believe he's dead and from such a freak accident involving a rarely dangerous animal. Our prayers go out to Mr. Irwin's family in their time of grief.
Read the story in News.com.au
Jules Crittenden's insightful Boston Herald column
and a tribute video/slideshow from YouTube