Internet forums and gaming communities continue to mourn the death of Sean Smith, a State Department information officer and avid gamer killed in the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya more than a week ago.
Smith was beloved online in part for his Internet nickname "Vilerat" and penchant for pranks, but also his ability to connect people. In particular, Smith helped shape and bring together an online community of government workers through a "Foreign Services" discussion group on the comedic Internet forum "Something Awful."
There, State Department employees and those interested in joining State networked, learned how to get jobs, learned how to get visas, and were taught about the State Department lifestyle.
Just last month, Smith wrote with pride of the group:
"Vilerat helped many goons get jobs working for the State Department. He was proud of what the thread represented," wrote Zack Parsons, a friend of Smith's, on the Something Awful site. "Vilerat's slot as a moderator ... won't be opening up anytime soon. Mods may come and go, but nobody can take over for him advocating for world diplomacy, shepherding discussions and always bringing good humor to the most contentious of debates."
Something Awful is encouraging donations to a fundraiser page for Smith's family, which has already raised more than $90,000 toward its $150,000 goal. Smith leaves behind a wife, Heather, and two children, Samantha and Nathan. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and security agents Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were also killed in the attack on Americans by Muslims angry over a film that is said to mock the Prophet Muhammad.
Updated 9/21/12, 10:15 a.m.:
Two members of the Something Awful community have shared more about Smith.
Michelle Trayne, who is a supervisor at Something Awful and oversees the moderators, says she loved watching Smith grow over time. “If you needed anything, he would find what kind of resource would help you,” she says.
Kevin McGaffey, another user of the site, knows that firsthand. “Online community cannot replace real-world relationships, but Sean really demonstrates the extent to which we're not just funny names on a screen, but real people who affect one another's lives,” he wrote in an E-mail.
“He's being remembered for Internet spaceships and arguing on the internet, but ultimately the theme running through his life was one of service to others. Hopefully, if he has a legacy, it's that everyone involved takes a cue from him and spends a little more time serving a greater good of some kind. That's the lesson I'm taking away, anyway.”