Exclusive: Walters Interviews Croc. Hunter's Widow

ByABC News

Sept. 26, 2006 — -- The day that popular television personality Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died was the day his wife, Terri, says she lost her prince.

It's been almost a month since a stingray barb killed her husband of 14 years, piercing his heart as he filmed a show on the Great Barrier Reef. Terri spoke with Barbara Walters, in her first interview since Irwin's death, about how she is coping.

"One minute at a time. Sometime an hour at a time. With great faith, great determination," Terri says. "I have tremendous faith in God that all things happen for a reason, even if we don't understand. ... I have two beautiful children. And they really are my strength."

Terri met Steve Irwin on Oct. 6, 1991. The Oregon native was visiting Australia with friends. "I went into this little reptile park, and Steve was doing the crocodile show, coincidentally. ... I was absolutely floored. That was it. This man was a real-life hero. I fell then and there, love at first sight."

They started talking, and Terri says it became clear that Steve liked her too. But he told her he had a girlfriend. "I was a little bit devastated, she says." But that lovesick devastation didn't last for long. Steve introduced Terri to his girlfriend Sue, a little dog.

Six months later, they were married.

Terri says she'd marry Steve again in a minute, even knowing how it would end.

Despite the loss of her husband, Terri says she still feels blessed that she had him in her life. "I had romance like I didn't think existed anymore, a wonderful romance. He was passionate and determined and enthusiastic."

He had so much enthusiasm for life, that at times, Terri says, it was hard to keep up with him. "There were so many things that made me crazy, like his desire to do everything now. He had a real sense of urgency with his life and no side view business plan. If you got plans, we'll do them now."

At Irwin's memorial service, it was said over and over again how "Steve changed the world."Terri says he changed the world by giving everyone a message. "If you can reach out and touch and love and be with wildlife, you will forever be changed and you will want to make the world a better place. ... If we do nothing ... we're in trouble. And he did more than anybody. So I think we can all do something."

As the Irwin family continues to grieve, there's one thing Terri says she misses the most. "He was fun. He was fun. He taught me it's OK to play in the rain. And splash in my puddle. And let the kids get dirty. And spill ice cream on your pants. He didn't sweat the little stuff. He followed the big picture. And he had fun! Now I'm going to work really hard at having fun again. ... I'm Mrs. Steve Irwin. I've got a lot to live up to."

Terri remembers how much her husband loved being in the wild. "When he was in with those crocodiles, all he wanted to do was show you and convince you why you should love them. ... He just absolutely loved crocodiles. ... But you know how he saw them. Not as weird. He saw them as dinosaurs. ... He saw them as the most amazing animals."

Bindi, their 8-year-old daughter, reminds Terri of her husband. "Bindi has a spirituality about her that I've seen with Steve. She has unbelievable sensitivity. She has an uncanny connection with wildlife. She has a love for them that was just like her dad's. ... She seems to feel an animal. She seems to understand it and have this great gift of love."

Bindi has begun to follow in her father's footsteps. She's on a new series the Discovery Network has developed called "Bindi the Jungle Girl," which Bindi hosts herself.

And what's in Terri's own future? "I have to be here for my children," she says. "I have to make sure the zoo keeps running. He planned all of that masterfully. He planned this wonderful business so that it could continue if anything happened to him."

And if the youngest of the Irwin clan, 2-year-old Robert, has any say in future plans, his father will be back in their lives. Just the other night, Terri says she found Robert fixing a motorbike with a screwdriver. She asked him what he was doing, and he answered, "I'm fixing the motorbike so Daddy can drive it from heaven."

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