After a Navy F-18 crashed into her house Friday, 21-year-old Virginia Beach resident Devin Smith did what came naturally to her to try to make sense of the surreal experience: she went on Reddit and posted an Ask Me Anything Q&A that has candidly revealed not only the chaos of moments she'll never forget, but also the confusion and frustration of the aftermath.
As you probably saw in the news here and elsewhere, a Navy F/A-18 jet crashed into an apartment complex due to "catastrophic mechanical malfunction." While seven were injured in the accident, no one was killed, but some 40 apartments were destroyed or damaged — and so, 40 or so families were displaced, like Smith's, who goes by the user account name "DevinJet."
In her introduction, she identifies herself by her first name only and her age and tells readers why she's posting:
I can't even begin to wrap my mind around what has happened. Who thinks they're gonna wake up one morning then have their house destroyed by a jet?? My brother was the one who saved the pilot (Colby Smith) The amount of support I have gotten has been incredible. I decided to turn to reddit since I knew it was such a new and weird story. It's even crazier that no one died. But I guess I wanted to see how many people have had anything similar ... tornado, fire, etc of their house and how did you feel? When did it get better? How was it seeing your house?
Her brother, Colby Smith, was mentioned in this msnbc.com story:
Colby Smith said his house started shaking and then the power went out, as he saw a red and orange blaze outside his window. He ran outside, where he saw billowing black smoke and then came upon the tangled pilot as he ran to a friend's home, The Associated Press reported. "I saw the parachute on the house and he was still connected to it, and he was laying on the ground with his face full of blood," Smith said."The pilot said, 'I'm sorry for destroying your house,'" Smith told the AP.
But Devin Smith gave much more detail in her Reddit post about what happened:
My brothers story is actually really cool and it gave me chills when he told me. He was playing guitar hero in his room then got up to go put his contacts in. He was standing in the bathroom when the jet hit. He said it was a loud thunder noise and huge explosion and the house started shaking and the power cut off. He popped his head out of the doorway and saw his room on fire. He ran down the stairs and out the house without shoes on. Ran to my neighbor's house and then found the pilot right beside that house. That's when the pilot said he was sorry for hitting our home and my brother told him it was alright and they needed to move him to safety. There had to be a reason he got up at that precise moment to put his contacts in, it's freaky to think what would have happened to him if he decided to play one more song.
In a thank you video going out to Reddit (shown at the end of this story) for helping her through this time of crisis, Devin Smith calls her brother a hero, but he says, "I think everyone that day was a hero."
But for them, it seems like the advice given by other Redditors has been very heroic, as Devin Smith writes: "We have lawyered up, thank you for all your words reddit. I'm just glad I'm here to share this story with you. Talking to you all is helping me stay sane in the moment :)"
This isn't the first time an AMA has taken on a life of its own on Reddit, but the most popular AMAs tend to be from the celebrity set, like Stephen Colbert, Louis C.K. and Zach Braff (who are the top three all-time AMAs on Reddit, so far).
She gave her own accounts of what it was like for her to hear about the crash:
I was driving home when it happened and for an hour yesterday I thought my brother was dead. I knew he was home and I kept calling and it went straight to voice mail since his phone was destroyed in the fire. My thoughts yesterday were, all over. I couldn't process a single thing. I still really can't. I feel like a zombie. Today I drove by and it made my stomach turn, I haven't seen my house exactly yet and I'm not sure when I'll be able to handle it.
My first thought when I saw it on TV was, that's not really my house. It's super unreal. I keep thinking when I wake up I'm going to be back in my bed. And that was the best feeling ever to hear that he was safe, I have never felt so helpless before in my life when I thought he was gone.
When asked, "What was the most important thing(s) to you that are now gone forever that was inside your home during the accident?" she replied:
Well having my family is the most important and I'm so glad they're not gone forever. I'm going to miss my bed a lot. Nothing is like your bed, it makes me really sad that I'm never going to get to lay-down in it again. I also had a HUGE 15 pound stuffed animal, it was Sully from Monster's Inc. My mom gave me a collection of dolls from around the world that my grandpa had given to her when he traveled and they were all like 30 something years old and I always planned to give them to my children one day. It gets really overwhelming when I think about all that I lost because it's everything but the stuff in my car.
In her update yesterday, Smith said the hotel the Navy had put them up in had kicked them out: "They charged us $400. I'm getiing the navy allowance today, but I am beyond hurt. I called the mayor and the local news about this but they were completely unhelpful."
In a previous post, she told people what her family was given to live on while they're homeless, but defended the donations that have come in: "People keep saying this is a scam? I'm not asking for money but people kept asking for me to post my pay-pal so I did." She also told them that they do have renter's insurance, but that it wouldn't kick in for another four to six months. The Navy would compensate, she said, but that could take up to two years. In the meantime, she had family she could stay with in the area.
But Devin Smith still found some humor in the situation.
And while she probably gained a lot of insights from the other Reddit users, she's also taking away other lessons from this experience:
When I made this post, I was still in shock of the whole situation and information was given to us by different sources. I wanted to say I orginally told you guys how much the navy was giving us because thats what I understood it to be and that amount was only going to last two weeks. I will say now that has changed and the navy has given everyone a set amount of money but I won't discuss that here. Also we do have a lawyer but thats to protect us. The media on this thread is ridiculous, don't believe everything that you read please. I will say that my orginal shock of the whole situation is wearing off and reality is starting to sink in. My family and I have a lot we need to do in the next few days, weeks, and months. I will probably do a follow-up post just to let reddit know that we're okay, which I know we will be. I thank you guys for all the support, this I honestly mean that. I also need to say, yes my brother and I have recieved a lot of attention but we're not the only ones who were affected. Please keep everyone in your thoughts.
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