(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Arlington National Cemetery was closed for most of the day today due to a bomb threat.
The cemetery said on social media Friday morning that the threat is being investigated.
“The cemetery’s response teams and local law enforcement partners are on site investigating the threat,” ANC said. “The public is requested to avoid the area and wait for updates posted to our social media platforms.”
An Arlington County police K-9 unit was dispatched to the cemetery around 8:40 a.m. for what was described as a threat received via email.
Bomb scare at Arlington Cemetery see funerals cancelled and hearses stuck waiting outside. Area still closed. pic.twitter.com/0ZilTkSXww
— Andrew Leyden (@PenguinSix) September 8, 2023
Officials said shortly after 3 p.m. that no threat was found but the cemetery remains closed except for funerals.
More from a press release:
Arlington National Cemetery officials and Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall emergency services responded to a bomb threat early this morning. The cemetery closed to the public and funeral services scheduled this morning were postponed. The cemetery’s response teams and local law enforcement partners spent the morning on site investigating the threat. Nothing suspicious was found, and law enforcement safely cleared all areas.
The cemetery will remain closed for the remainder of the day to visitors and family pass holders. We are focusing our efforts now on working with families to ensure that funerals scheduled earlier this morning and this afternoon will be conducted later today.
Arlington National Cemetery’s commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for our visitors, families and employees guided our actions this morning.
“Every threat to Arlington National Cemetery is taken seriously. I want to thank our visitors and family members for their patience and understanding, and an extensive team of our law enforcement partners across the National Capital Region for their swift and thorough response. We will spend the remainder of the day focused on our mission of laying our service members and their loved ones to rest,” said Army National Military Cemeteries and Office of Army Cemeteries Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.
For additional information please contact: 703-614-0024 and follow Arlington National
Cemetery on our social media platforms @ArlingtonNatl and this website.
2/2 The cemetery's response teams and local law enforcement partners are on site investigating the threat. The public is requested to avoid the area and wait for updates posted to our social media platforms.
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) September 8, 2023
Arlington National Cemetery is seeking public input on its proposal to remove the Confederate Memorial from its grounds.
Atop a 32-foot-tall pedestal in the cemetery stands a bronze statue of a woman depicting Confederate soldiers and Southern civilians, according to the cemetery website. The figures include an enslaved woman holding the infant child of a white officer and an enslaved man following his owner to war.
“The elaborately designed monument offers a nostalgic, mythologized vision of the Confederacy, including highly sanitized depictions of slavery,” the website says.
The statue is set to be removed nearly 110 years after its unveiling and placement in a section of the cemetery where Confederate soldiers were buried starting in the 1900s — decades after the war ended. The memorial’s sculptor, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, was also buried there.
The proposal is part of a broader effort by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to remove all references, displays and paraphernalia that commemorate the Confederate States of America and its soldiers from each of the Dept. of Defense’s assets. This includes renaming several military bases and removing statues from the West Point Military Academy, among other recommended changes.
Plans to remove the Confederate Memorial have already been challenged in court, the Washington Post reports. The federal government is seeking to dismiss a suit filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and descendants of Confederate soldiers in March. The plaintiffs argue it would be a “disgrace” and illegal to remove the statue because it serves as a grave marker for Confederates buried at the site.
The Arlington National Cemetery website disagrees with this interpretation of the Confederate Memorial. It says the statue perpetuates the narrative that Southern secession was a noble “Lost Cause.”
“This narrative of the Lost Cause, which romanticized the pre-Civil War South and denied the horrors of slavery, fueled white backlash against Reconstruction and the rights that the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments (1865-1870) had granted to African Americans,” the website said.
While the cemetery says the government has already started preparing “for the careful removal and relocation of the memorial,” the public is invited to provide feedback on “alternatives that will avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects of the monument’s removal.”
Arlington National Cemetery is seeking comments from the public on the congressionally-mandated removal and relocation of the Confederate Memorial.
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) August 4, 2023
The Army is seeking its first round of public feedback now through the beginning of September. There will be a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
“The removal of the Confederate Memorial must be conducted in a manner that ensures the safety of the people who work at and visit ANC and that protects surrounding graves and monuments,” the website said. “The entire process, including disposition, must occur according to applicable laws, policies, and regulations.”
Two years ago, Congress directed the establishment of a naming commission tasked with assessing how much it would cost to remove Confederacy references and recommending renaming procedures.
The commission developed recommendations that informed a plan approved by the Dept. of Defense last October.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The herculean effort to clean up from Saturday’s storms and restore power to tens of thousands is continuing Monday morning.
The GW Parkway remains closed to most traffic between Spout Run Parkway and the Beltway — and is expected to remain closed until later this week, as crews work to clear a large number of downed trees and branches.
The southbound lanes of Spout Run Parkway, where at least one car was damaged by a fallen tree Saturday, also remain closed.
From a press release issued Monday afternoon:
The George Washington Memorial Parkway is currently experiencing closures due to the aftermath of Saturday’s storm. Crews are diligently working to clear fallen trees from the roadway, and these closures are expected to last for the next few days.
To enhance and expedite the restoration process, George Washington Memorial Parkway has deployed a total of five crews, including its own team, assistance from the National Capital Parks-East (NACE), and three additional emergency contracting crews.
The North Parkway, from Spout Run Parkway to I-495, remains closed, except for the northbound lanes from Route 123 to I-495. Additionally, the southbound lanes of the Spout Run Parkway are also closed.
These closures are necessary to ensure the removal of hazardous trees, including those that have fallen across the roadway and broken limbs that pose a risk to travel lanes. The recovery work is estimated to be completed within three to four days.
Round-the-clock power restoration work whittled down the peak of more than 34,000 without electricity in Arlington — half that of the 2012 derecho — to 3,154 as of 11:15 a.m. Monday, according to Dominion’s website.
The remaining small outages are scattered throughout the county, though most are concentrated in north-central Arlington — between Route 50 and Langston Blvd — including the Orange Line corridor, which was particularly hard hit.
Throughout Northern Virginia, 4,732 Dominion customers remained in the dark this morning, according to the power company. Crews have been working long shifts and overnight to restore power, with much of that effort happening in Arlington.
As of 4 p.m., the outages were down to 2,029 in Arlington and 2,338 throughout Northern Virginia.
So what’s @DominionEnergy doing to get the power back on?
Steve explains much better than me… pic.twitter.com/jDrJfiwOur
— Peggy Fox (@PeggyDomEnergy) July 30, 2023
More storm stories are emerging as the cleanup continues.
In Courthouse, a heavy metal table was blown off a condo patio during the storm’s intense winds and is now stuck high in a tree, above a sidewalk.
“The tree is right across the street from the entrance of the Palatine apartment building,” a tipster told ARLnow on Sunday. By Monday morning, however, the table had been removed by a tree maintenance crew, the tipster said.
Trees came down throughout Arlington, taking down utility lines, blocking roads, and in at least eight known cases falling onto houses. One unlucky family was on their way to Walt Disney World in Orlando when a huge tree smashed into their stately brick house near Lacey Woods Park, we’re told.
For those on the go, it’s not just drivers who have to deal with fallen trees and other debris. A trail cleanup is planned for 5:30 p.m. today on the Mount Vernon Trail near Rosslyn, which “got hit particularly hard,” according to a social media post.
The MVT got hit hard yesterday particularly near @rosslynva. Join us for a post storm cleanup at the southern end of Trollheim Bridge/Bridge 31. We will be removing branches and debris.
— Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail (@MtVernonFriends) July 30, 2023
Additionally, numerous trees are reported to be down on the Custis Trail and at least one park is closed due to storm damage.
“Rocky Run Park is closed for maintenance due to damages caused by the July 29 storms,” said Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation. “Please do not go onto the park grounds.”
Arlington National Cemetery, meanwhile, is also closed today except for funerals amid widespread tree damage at the nation’s most hallowed ground.
⚠️UPDATE: ANC closed to visitors and pass holders on Monday, July 31 ⚠️
Funerals will still be conducted as scheduled and open to attendees.
Our crew needs a little more time to return ANC to its proper condition before we welcome visitors. We apologize for the inconvenience. pic.twitter.com/3uPTMDjLI5
— Arlington National Cemetery (@ArlingtonNatl) July 30, 2023
More storm damage photos from social media, below.
Following the July 29 storms, there are many downed trees on the County’s trails (like these images from the Custis Trail). We appreciate your patience as crews work to survey and address these areas. Please use caution when using the trails as cleanup will take some time. pic.twitter.com/s8WXxxYIPU
— ARL VA Parks & Rec (@arlparksrec) July 30, 2023
— Elizabeth Hartig Schneider (@Beth867_539) July 30, 2023
— Claudia Bermudez Buttine (@LoBer81) July 30, 2023
— Kymberly Escobar (@kymesco) July 30, 2023
— HennaThis (@HennaThis) July 30, 2023
Get ready for the roar of military aircraft tomorrow.
Two separate military flyovers of Arlington National Cemetery are planned for Thursday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
“The US Navy will conduct a military flyover at the Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, June 15, 2023 at 9:15 AM,” according to the District of Columbia’s AlertDC system. “The US Air Force will conduct a military flyover… at 1:10 PM.”
Despite being quite commonplace, such flyovers of the cemetery, arranged for certain military funerals, often catch Arlington residents off guard, leading to emails and social media inquiries to ARLnow.
Part of the reason for that is a lack of notice before flyovers. While some are noted in advance by the cemetery on social media or via email by AlertDC, others come as a surprise.
There is a push for more transparency around ceremonial flyovers, journalist Rob Pegoraro reported last week for Greater Greater Washington.
“People in the region have all kinds of reasons for wanting to know ahead of time when a loud flyover’s about to happen, from calming infants and pets, to transparency about military activity, to pure appreciation,” wrote Pegoraro.
It’s Memorial Day weekend in Arlington.
The flags are in at Arlington National Cemetery, ‘Rolling to Remember’ participants are rolling up to local hotels, and the 35% of locals who say they’re traveling for the weekend have been keeping National Airport busy.
ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott has been out and about over the past day or so, documenting some of the scenes around the county. Providing an assist is Army photographer Elizabeth Fraser, whose photos of the “Flags In” event were published online by Arlington National Cemetery.
This was the 75th annual Flags In at the cemetery. More, below, from the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
An honored tradition.
Soldiers assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” and other service members placed American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in advance of Memorial Day.
This was the 75th anniversary of “Flags In,” during which service members adorn gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery to honor the nation’s fallen heroes.
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to review the county’s third application for funding from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Program.
The money would partially fund the construction of a long-proposed Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Wall Trail along Washington Blvd, which would connect Columbia Pike and the Pentagon City area with Memorial Avenue and the Arlington Memorial Bridge into D.C.
“Connectivity for bike-ped users across this part of the County is complicated by the combined barrier effects of secured federal facilities such as ANC, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and the Pentagon Reservation” and “a high-volume roadway network” comprised of Arlington Boulevard, Washington Blvd, Route 1 as it runs through Pentagon City, I-395 and the GW Parkway, the county notes in a report.
The new trail would run along the western side of Washington Blvd. An existing trail on the opposite side gets dicey near Memorial Circle for pedestrians and cyclists looking to connect to the Mt. Vernon Trail or cross into D.C.
The Federal Highway Administration is designing this multi-use trail in conjunction with the realignment of Columbia Pike. This work is being done to accommodate the 50-acre southern expansion of the ANC, which will add about 80,000 burial sites, allowing burials through the 2050s.
Arlington County has unsuccessfully applied for RAISE funding in the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. This fiscal year, the federal program has nearly $2.3 billion to dole out “for investments in surface transportation that will have a significant local or regional impact,” per the notice of funding opportunity.
“RAISE is a cost reimbursement program and not a lump sum grant award,” the county report notes. “Previous programs have been highly competitive.”
The Arlington Memorial Trail will run west along Washington Blvd and Richmond Hwy, starting at the eastern end of a realigned Columbia Pike to Memorial Avenue, immediately adjacent to the Arlington Cemetery Metro station.
It will link up to an existing trail along the west side of Richmond Hwy, which provides a connection to the Iwo Jima Memorial, to Rosslyn and to the larger network of bicycle and pedestrian trails along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
The estimated cost of the Arlington Memorial Trail in the approved 10-year capital improvement plan is $25 million. If the federal government green lights the full $15 million, the county would cover the remaining $10 million through a mix of the commercial and industrial tax and funding it receives from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for local projects.
Projects can receive $5 million to $25 million. A single state cannot receive more than $225 million and awards must be split evenly between urban and rural areas.
Selected projects will be announced by the end of June.
(Updated at 12:40 p.m. on 8/16/23) A portion of Columbia Pike is set to close for more than a year later this month to help make way for Arlington National Cemetery’s expansion.
The half-mile section of Columbia Pike between S. Joyce Street and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) facility just east of S. Oak Street is expected to be shuttered starting Monday, Jan. 23.
It will remain closed until the summer of 2024.
The closures are part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (DAR) project that’s being done to accommodate the 50-acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).
This will add about 80,000 burial sites, allowing the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds as well as provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center, with construction on that currently slated to start next year.
The overall expansion project remains on track to be completed by 2027, an ANC spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow.
Some detour specifics for the Pike closure are expected to be announced in the coming days, though the ANC spokesperson did share the general plan via email.
Traffic will be redirected to travel north on a new segment of S. Nash Street that will be opened between Columbia Pike and Southgate Road and one block east of S. Oak Street. It’s marked as a “new access road” on the map below.
Then, to circumvent the closed portion of the Pike, traffic will be sent east on Southgate Road to the existing S. Joyce Street/Columbia Pike intersection, which will remain open.
For pedestrians and cyclists, there is set to be a “dedicated” sidewalk with a buffer zone and barricades. Those “are currently being constructed in anticipation of the 1/23 closure,” the ANC spokesperson said
At the moment, there is an established pedestrian and bike detour along the north side of Southgate Road as well as a temporary sidewalk to the east of S. Joyce Street that connects with the sidewalk under the I-395 bridge.
Last week, though, a reader reached out to ARLnow about how a portion of the pedestrian and bike detour has a “large patch of gravel” rendering it not accessible for some.
“While a wheelchair user might be able to make it across that patch, it wouldn’t be easy,” they wrote. The reader said that locals have reached out to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) about the gravel but, so far, little has been done.
Local officials told ARLnow that they have since addressed that patch of gravel.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) As many as 40,000 people are expected to attend Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.
The annual holiday event is set to take place on Saturday, Dec. 17 this year, starting at 8 a.m.
Wreaths Across America provides the public a chance to lay wreaths and other symbolic items at the graves of fallen service members and their families. This tradition was first started in 1992. Some 30,000 to 40,000 people are expected to volunteer this year, per a cemetery spokesperson.
However, for those who’ve attended in the past, the process for attending the event and entering the cemetery will be slightly different.
There’s a new registration system that grants timed entry into the cemetery at either 8 or 9 a.m. through one of four gates — Memorial Avenue, Service Complex gate, Old Post Chapel, and the recently-restored Ord and Weitzel gate.
Registration is required to enter the cemetery this year, ANC officials said. This new step is being instituted to ensure the “safety and security” of visitors and employees.
Vehicular traffic will not be permitted in the cemetery and parking will be off-limits for the general public in the garage on Dec. 17. There will be “limited” general public parking at the Pentagon North and South parking lots.
Large crowds and road closures near the cemetery should be anticipated.
ANC officials are recommending attendees use public transportation or a ride-share service for traveling to and from the cemetery. The drop-off location will be at the parking lot at 880 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City. From there, visitors can walk to the Service Complex gate along Columbia Pike.
The annual “Escort to Arlington” parade will also be arriving at the cemetery that day. Billed as the “country’s longest veterans’ parade,” a caravan of vehicles transporting Gold Star families and veterans will travel down the East Coast starting this weekend, en route to Arlington.
Family Pass Holder Day is being held on Sunday, Dec. 11 this year, a week prior to the event for the public. This separate event allows family pass-holders to place a wreath at their loved one’s grave ahead of the more-crowded public Wreaths Across America event.
Arlington National Cemetery’s restored Ord and Weitzel Gate was unveiled to the public earlier this week, after more than four decades in storage.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, the historic gate was officially reopened at the north entrance of the cemetery’s hallowed ground.
The iron gate dates to 1879 when it was first designed by Montgomery Meigs, also known for his work on the U.S. Capitol dome and what’s today the National Building Museum. The columns on top, decorated with “elaborately sculpted urns,” are two centuries old and were originally part of the War Department building prior to its demolition.
As the years went on, though, the cemetery expanded and the gate became weathered. It was also too small for modern vehicles to fit through. So, in 1979, it was disassembled and put into storage.
Forty-three years later, it’s back in its original location, restored, and reopened to the public. Now, though, it’s a pedestrian-only gate.
“The opening of the restored Ord and Weitzel Gate marks an important milestone in Arlington National Cemetery’s long-range plan to preserve our priceless monumental and architectural history,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director of the Office of Army Cemeteries, said in a press release. “Our historic gates are among the cemetery’s most unique and meaningful cultural resources, yet their stories often remain untold.”
The restored gate also came with a number of improvements to the Custis walking path, including updating the sidewalk, security features, and making other visitor-friendly infrastructure changes.
The sidewalk was changed from asphalt to concrete for design and safety reasons, per a cemetery spokesperson. A new, updated guardhouse was also added, plus a water fountain, benches, trash cans, and street lamps. There’s a new pull-off location for the ANC tram as well.
This will require realigning Columbia Pike and moving it closer to I-395 so that gravesites can be placed where it currently curves around the Air Force Memorial. That portion of the project just got underway this past spring. The construction will eventually result in the closing of a portion of Columbia Pike near Pentagon City, which could happen as soon as early next year.
With the expansion, as well as the restoration of the historic Ord and Weitzel Gate, Arlington National Cemetery is looking to preserve, modernize, and grow.
“Just yesterday I was giving a briefing on our Southern Expansion Project, and I discussed how we were building history, a project that will last as long as there is a United States of America,” ANC’s Director of Engineering Col. Thomas Austin said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “Now, here at Ord and Weitzel, we have the honor of rebuilding history, reviving a structure with elements that go back nearly 200 years. What an honor it is and how lucky we all are to be a part of it.”
The beacon of light in the Arlington sky early Sunday morning wasn’t a UFO, but an authorized Pentagon drone flight.
At about 2:41 a.m. this past Sunday (Aug. 7) morning, some people spotted a dot of light hovering above the general vicinity of Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon.
(2) It was 2:41 a.m. & looking at my angle (the third shot) it appears to have taken off from the area of the @ArlingtonNatl offices on Patton Dr. or behind the offices in the cemetery. This is near @JBMHH's Southgate Rd. (more) pic.twitter.com/anDzYXQKm5
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) August 7, 2022
As former-news-reporter-turned-safety-advocate Dave Statter pointed out on social media, the skies above this section of south Arlington are a general no-fly zone for anything other than military aircraft and commercial flights heading to or from National Airport. He, then, theorized that this was an “authorized [drone] flight (or someone really looking for trouble).”
Turns out, he was right about it being an authorized flight.
“I can confirm the drone activity observed in the early morning hours on Aug. 7 and 8 was part of a Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) security exercise and was approved drone activity,” a Department of Defense spokesperson told ARLnow in an email.
“Due to operations security, we cannot discuss the specifics of the activity,” the spokesperson said, in response to requests for more details about the exercise.
Drone flights, both authorized and not, do happen on occasion here despite the restrictions.
Arlington County used drones to count the deer population, with permission from federal agencies. Just last month, meanwhile, an unauthorized drone flight prompted a ground stop and flight delays at Reagan National Airport.
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Local lawmakers have again introduced legislation to officially remove Robert E. Lee’s name from Arlington House.
For fifty years, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial” has been the official name for the National Park Service-managed mansion that sits on top of a hill at Arlington National Cemetery.
But in recent years, there has been a push to drop Lee’s name from the memorial and return it to its original name of simply “Arlington House.”
In 2020, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va) proposed legislation to do just that since Arlington House lies in his district. The bill was co-sponsored by two other local representatives, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va), along with D.C. Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Beyer said at the time that the legislation was partially inspired by requests for a name change from descendants of those who were enslaved at Arlington House. However, the bill never got out of committee and no change was made.
Two years later, though, these local lawmakers are trying again with a bicameral push.
The House bill is co-sponsored by Beyer, Connelly, Wexton, and Norton while a new Senate bill is sponsored by Tim Kaine (D-Va). The legislation, if passed and signed into law, would strip the Confederate general’s name from the house he once lived in.
“If we are serious about ending racial disparities, we need to stop honoring those who fought to protect slavery,” Kaine said in a press release. “I’m proud to be part of the effort to rename Arlington House, and am going to keep fighting for the kinds of reforms we need to create a society that delivers liberty and justice for all.”
This year’s bills are very similar to the one from 2020, Beyer Communications Director Aaron Fritschner confirmed to ARLnow, save for small language changes including adding a formal historic site designation.
If the legislation does pass, the mansion would officially be called “The Arlington House National Historic Site.”
The building that now sits inside Arlington National Cemetery was first built by enslaved people in the early 19th century to be the residence for George Washington Parke Custis. It was also intended to be a memorial to George Washington, Custis’s adoptive grandfather.
Custis’s daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis married Robert E. Lee in 1831. The soon-to-be Confederate general was known to be a cruel and sometimes violent head of the household.
During the Civil War, the Union Army seized the house as well as the grounds and turned it into a military cemetery.
In 1955, Congress passed legislation to designate the house as the “Custis-Lee Mansion.” The name was changed again in 1972 to what it is today, “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”
For years, Arlington House was featured prominently in the county’s logo. That changed last year after a push to remove the house from the logo, in large part due to its formal name and association with Lee.
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Lee’s relationship to the house and property.)