Out of the ashes


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Donna Reynolds’ new home was built in 2007 after her first home was destroyed in a plane crash during the Oregon International Air Show. She embraced her second chance and created her dream home: an Arts and Crafts-style home with an inviting front porch, detached garage, low-maintenance plants and no grass to mow.

// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina


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Donna Reynolds strolls through her sunny, verdant backyard, pointing out raised beds full of snap peas, carrots, green beans, kale, lettuce and spinach. It is a suburban Garden of Eden laden with edible fruits that Reynolds freely snacks on as she makes her way around the yard, talking with candor and clarity about the day almost seven years ago when a vintage fighter jet flying in the Oregon International Air Show at Hillsboro Airport crashed into her house, destroying it and killing the pilot.

Reynolds had been out with friends when the crash happened. She returned to find her home in flames. The inferno obliterated everything except her garage. Lacey, her beloved Lab, somehow got out of the house and ran to a nearby neighbor’s.

But there is no remorse when Reynolds remembers her loss. “Someone erased my home so I could start again,” Reynolds says philosophically. “It was a gift. I had the chance to build the perfect house with all my friends.” She never considered moving. “My life is here. And it wasn’t just me; the other three neighbors were really affected. I would feel like I was deserting them. Instead, it was ‘let’s clean it up and let’s make it better.”’ One neighbor’s home was also destroyed and rebuilt, another’s was partially damaged, and a third neighbor had to redo the entire backyard.

The new home was a community effort. Instead of being part of a couple that planned the house, Reynolds, who is single, reached out to her neighbors and friends. “My neighbors behind me lost their house as well. And my other neighbor saw my house burst into flames. I became much closer to all of them because we went through this experience together.”

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Reynolds came home to find her house in flames. The crash also claimed the homes of two neighbors.

// Photo courtesy Donna Reynolds

Reynolds and her “roommate,” Lacey, who miraculously got out of the burning house and ran to a neighbor’s home. “I thought, if she’s fine, I’m fine. It’s going to be OK,” Reynolds says.

A sunny garden filled with fruits, vegetables and graceful walkways is a focal point of the home. The bank of windows means the garden can be seen from almost anywhere inside the home and provides passive solar benefits.



{besps_c}0|01.jpg|A picture of the actual jet that ended up crashing into Donna Reynolds’ house.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|02.jpg|The property before and after the crash.|PHOTO VIRTUAL EARTH{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|03.jpg|Part of the crashed vintage fighter jet ended up in the backyard after the July 2006 accident.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|04.jpg|The view from the house’s original kitchen. Reynolds’ neighbor’s house was also damaged.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|05.jpg|Reynolds was only able to salvage a few items out of the garage.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|06.jpg|Part of her record collection was destroyed in the crash.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|07.jpg|The cleanup required clearing debris from the house and plane, and getting rid of soil that was contaminated by jet fuel.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|08.jpg|A photograph of Reynolds’ uncle, mother and the family dog in Colorado. Hundreds of her photos were singed but survived.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|09.jpg|The remnants of an upright piano that was on the ground floor in the living room, where Reynolds would play her favorite song, “As Time Goes By.” |PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|10.jpg|Reynolds salvaged some pages from her daily journals, which she started in the late 1970s.|PHOTO ALEXANDRA SHYSHKINA{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|11.jpg|Reynolds designed and built her first home on the lot in 1986. After it was destroyed, she wanted to get rid of the grass, the sunroom and the second story.|PHOTO DONNA REYNOLDS{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|12.jpg|Today, the sunny backyard is filled with graceful walkways and attractive edibles, such as mulberries, quince and pawpaws.|PHOTO ALEXANDRA SHYSHKINA{/besps_c}

{besps_c}0|13.jpg|Reynolds’ new Craftsman-style home features a welcoming, wide porch front porch that will keep trick-or-treaters dry when they come knocking.|PHOTO ALEXANDRA SHYSHKINA{/besps_c}


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This picture shows the same view of the property right after the crash that destroyed the house and turned the yard into a toxic pit.

// Photo courtesy Donna Reynolds


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She hired architect Mark Stiles, a friend of a friend. “I encouraged her to keep going with the ideas she and her buddies were coming up with,” Stiles says.

Reynolds saw it as a second chance to change what she “regretted the first time around” in the home she designed and built in 1986 with her parents, when she was 28 and still married. In the new house, she wanted a lot of natural light, given the long, dark Oregon winters and that she works at home. She wanted only one story and a wide, friendly front porch to keep trick-or-treaters dry. And window seats — lots of window seats — so Lacey could have plenty of perches to scout squirrels.

“It’s really a custom home designed for Lacey and me,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds also wanted her new house to have an “old home” feel, one that would look as if it had been part of the neighborhood for a long time. All these ideas eventually came together into a Craftsman-style home completed in 2007.

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Reynolds has five raised beds full of vegetables, and she has planted myriad fruit trees and edible plants throughout her new garden. She often strolls through her garden and snacks on plants instead of going inside to make lunch.

Reynolds’ garden is full of drought-tolerant plants, edible fruits and vegetables, and many places to sit and relax. She lost two 30-foot maple trees in the fire, giving her plenty of sun.

// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina

Part of the crashed vintage fighter jet in Reynolds’ backyard after the July 2006 crash, which killed the pilot, 73-year-old Robert Guilford. The plane had apparently lost power.

// Photo courtesy Donna Reynolds



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Reynolds and Lacey in her backyard after the crash. The soil was contaminated with jet fuel and was dug out and hauled away.

// Photo courtesy Debbie Layton


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The two-bedroom, two-bath home has 1,932 square feet of living space on the ground floor and 670 square feet of storage on the second floor. Its sun-drenched kitchen and living/dining area is open to the garden. A clever and elegant built-in that contains a two-sided gas fireplace and a TV on a swivel allows Reynolds to watch movies from either room.

“It was liberating to say, what do I really want?” she says. “I looked at how I had been living for 20 years in the old house. The sunroom did not work. Light was a big thing. I didn’t want to make the garage the focus of the home.” As a freelance copy editor, she also needed a home office. “So I put it in a good spot,” right in the front of the house with a view of the porch, street and front garden. And a window seat for Lacey.

“Donna knew precisely what she wanted,” Stiles says. “She really became a gardener during the process. The way the house opened to the garden became very important.”

Reynolds knew she never wanted to mow all that grass again, since the house sits on a one-third-acre lot, but there were other considerations. She wanted to grow her own food, use water-efficient plants and have a low-maintenance garden that she could handle by herself.

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The intense heat from the crash fused together a part of the plane, eyeglasses and papers.

A trellis covered in hops provides shade and beauty to the porch.

// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina



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Both living and dining rooms benefit from the two-way gas fireplace. The television is on a swivel and hidden inside the cabinet to the left. Reynolds moved into her new home without a single piece of furniture. She decorated with warm tones, fabric and furniture suited to a bungalow.

// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina


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“The biggest thing is that she felt that she was in this ocean of devastation,” says garden designer Sheri LaFlamme. “She wanted something to look at that was beautiful, and she needed privacy.”

LaFlamme planted edibles that were also attractive plants, and fruits you can’t readily get in stores, such as mulberries, quince and pawpaws. “Donna really wanted to be more self-sustaining food-wise. It’s also a lot of space. But she can keep anything alive. She’s kind of special that way.”

All gardens and homes are in constant transition, and after five years, Reynolds now realizes that she needs more shade and plans to put in a few trees. Lacey, too, is settling in. “The best thing that has happened is that this year, for the first time, Lacey slept through the loud jets of the air show,” Reynolds says.

Jet sounds are not the only reminders of that day when Reynolds lost everything except what was most important. There are still times, when planting a bush or tree, that Reynolds will dig up a piece of the plane or part of a favorite bowl or cup. She keeps those fragments and shards as reminders of a home — and life — wholly rebuilt.

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The two-way gas fireplace and built-in TV adds separation and definition to the large kitchen/dining/living area without boxing in the space or the views.

Reynolds wanted a welcoming, wide porch that would keep trick-or-treaters dry when they came knocking. The front door is 42 inches wide.

The new home was built with Lacey in mind. Here she sits on the window seat in the home office, which looks out onto the front yard and the street.