reports that US Ambassador Chris Stevens, Smith and one other foreign service officer took cover in a safe room after a group of heavily armed militants began attacking the consulate. Within approximately 15 minutes of the first gunshots, the militants entered the main compound of the consulate and began setting fires. The safe room where Smith was seeking refuge began filling with smoke. Stevens and Smith were forced to evacuate the room, becoming separated due to the heavy, black smoke making it nearly impossible to see. Smith was overwhelmed by the smoke and died of smoke inhalation.
Smith was in Libya on a “brief, temporary assignment,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement
on Wednesday. The statement went on to say:
"Sean Smith was an Air Force veteran. He spent 10 years as an information management officer in the State Department, he was posted at The Hague, and was in Libya on a brief temporary assignment. He was a husband to his wife Heather, with whom I spoke this morning. He was a father to two young children, Samantha and Nathan. They will grow up being proud of the service their father gave to our country, service that took him from Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi. The mission that drew Chris [US Ambassador Chris Stevens] and Sean and their colleagues to Libya is both noble and necessary, and we and the people of Libya honor their memory by carrying it forward."
Smith served his country most of his adult life. He was known by many as a very friendly, personable man who was well liked by most everyone he met. He was also known as a talented diplomat, which made service with the State Department a natural fit. It also made him a very respected and admired gamer. In his spare time, Smith enjoyed playing an online MMO (massively multiplayer online game) called Eve Online.
Eve Online is a game with more than 400,000 players. Players of Eve Online captain starships, build, buy and sell virtual goods, engage in corporate espionage, create diplomatic alliances and fight wars. They even elect a government known as the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), which is composed of real-world players.
Smith went by the name Vile Rat within the Eve "universe". He was friends, both in the game and in real life with a player known as The_Mittani. On Wednesday, Smith was on a messaging platform called Jabber talking to The_Mittani. At one point during their conversation
, Smith said
"[vile_rat 9/11/12 12:54 PM]: assuming we don't die tonight. We saw one of our 'police' that guard the compound taking pictures."
Smith was also known for his "interesting" and "morbid" sense of humor, something that is not unusual for those that have been deployed in war zones. No one knew at the time how prophetic his comment would be.
Nearly two hours later, Smith typed:
[vile_rat 9/11/12 2:40 PM]: FUCK
[vile_rat 9/11/12 2:40 PM]: gunfire
He was disconnected from Jabber and never returned.
Eve Online players who knew him both in and out of the game remember Smith as a hard working, determined, good man who was fun to be around. Some of those that knew him had this to say
"On the CSM, Sean was what he was in real life -- a hard-working public servant. He had no desire for fame or recognition; he simply saw things that needed to be fixed, and set about trying to fix them. His loss is all the more tragic because it was caused by forces he detested; those of hatred, intolerance and ignorance."
"I think the best way to talk about Sean is to use his own words. Here are some things he said to me recently: 'You are as powerful as you want to be. I hope good things. I want the CSM to succeed. I'll do what I can to help.' I think that last one especially sums up what we all loved about Sean - he was always willing to help others."
"I was fortunate enough to know the man behind the avatar, Sean. To say he was a good man would be a gross understatement; simply put he was as good a man as they come. It was impossible not to respect and admire his passion and devotion to his family and his work. On CSM6 we were often times on opposing sides, but at the end of the day we were always able to sit back, laugh, and talk as friends. That's the type of man he was, and I consider myself very lucky to have called him "friend". He will be sorely missed and my heart goes out to his family and loved ones."
Smith not only served his country bravely and admirably, he was passionately devoted to his wife and children. His kindness, patience and personality in an online space game touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people. Tributes from those that knew Smith as Vile Rat have filled the Eve Online
forum with condolences, more then 1200 in less then 24 hours.
James Fultz, a former Eve Online player, told me:
So sad. Rest in Peace Sean. Gamers fit all molds in Life. I am thankful for his service.
CCP Games spokesman Ned Coker told me that the entire CCP (creators of Eve Online) staff are deeply saddened by the passing of Smith. He went on to say
"Many of us interacted with him professionally and personally and, honestly, it feels like our words are lost adrift, amongst such a tremendous, soul-affirming outpouring from the EVE community"
I had the privilege to "fly" with Vile Rat within the Eve universe a few years ago. I did not know him well and I never met him in person. However during my brief interactions with him it was obvious that he was someone who was funny, determined and a man who had an excellent work ethic. I know he will be missed by many in the gaming community. For those who knew him, and even those that didn't, the world is a little darker place without him.