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A group of Marines in their dress blue uniforms braved floodwaters along Columbia Pike to help a stranded motorist.

Video of the rescue has gone viral on TikTok, racking up more than 800,000 views as of this article’s publication. It appears to have taken place on Columbia Pike near the Pentagon on Thursday, amid a torrential downpour that flooded a number of roadways around Arlington.

The Marines, in their formal white pants and blue jackets, are seen getting out of a Marine Corps bus that’s stopped on the side of Columbia Pike, under a bridge carrying traffic on Washington Blvd. High standing water can be seen around the driver’s car.

“The Marines are going to help us?” she’s heard asking. “We just got stuck.”

The group trudges through the floodwaters and then is seen pushing the car to safety.

“Oh my God, this is the most American thing ever,” the driver says. “Thank you so much!”

In the comments on TikTok, the driver further expressed her gratitude.

“As an immigrant we don’t usually see these thing in the country I grew up in,” she wrote. “I am so grateful for the country and its Marines and military.”

It’s all in a day’s work for members of the Corps, said others in the comments.

“I am going to tell you right now, they LOVED helping you out,” one man wrote. “Cause this is what we Marines do.”

@vigi.boo

#themarines #unitedstatesofamerica #greateful #semperfi #thedaythemarineshelpedus #godblessamerica #usamarines #amen #beautiful #intimesofstress #hope

♬ People Help the People – Birdy

Hat tip to @theblueapple

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Columbia Pike at sunset on Monday night (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

An earlier version of this feature article was published via email for members of our ARLnow Press Club, whose support makes more in-depth reporting like this possible. Join the Press Club here.

The past, present, and future of Columbia Pike is rather easy to see.

Cross Glebe Road and there’s the Broiler, first opened in 1959 and, today, still slinging cheesesteaks. Right by the ramp to I-395, the historic Johnson’s Hill neighborhood (also known as Arlington View) remains home to a number of the same residents that have lived there for decades.

Drive the Pike from Washington Blvd to where it crosses Leesburg Pike in Fairfax County and you’ll see a number of low-slung businesses and massive apartment complexes that were built during the Eisenhower administration.

But, over the last decade, the Pike has seen plenty of change. There’s now modern shopping plazas, cavernous parking garages, and gleaming new apartment complexes. Sure, there’s no streetcar, but in frequent intervals buses go up and down the Pike, pausing at a million dollar bus stop (and, soon, numerous upgraded but less expensive stops).

The Pike has continued to have a reputation for being one of the more affordable areas to live in Arlington and, with that, a diverse neighborhood has thrived. The Pike — and its corresponding 22204 zip code — is often referred to as a “world in a zip code.”

At the same time, the future is nearly here and it may bring changes that not everyone is happy with — or could afford. Redevelopment of decades-old shopping centers, forcing the closing of long-time legacy businesses. Garden-style apartments are being turned into 400-unit buildings. Mixed-use projects are set to replace under-used parking lots.

Not to mention, just a few miles away, Amazon is building a headquarters which is likely to bring more people and development to the Pike.

Today, about 41,000 people live along the Pike corridor, according to county data. That’s more that a 10% increase compared to a decade ago. Over the next thirty years, much of Arlington’s population growth is expected to be concentrated along the Pike.

Officials are looking to adapt to these changes by turning Columbia Pike into what the county calls a “vibrant… walkable, lively ‘Main Street’, an effort that first began more than 30 years ago.

In 1986, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization formed in response to the Arlington County Board providing a $50,000 grant towards economically reviving the Pike.

The grant and the formation of CPRO would be, as the Washington Post described at the time, “the first step in what some see as a 10-year effort to coordinate improvements that could lead to revitalization of the highway as well as a return of community pride.”

That was followed over the next decade plus by a number of revitalization plans, policy changes, and initiatives – including in 1990, 1998, and 2002 — all in an attempt to bring more businesses, “revitalize,” and create a more “vibrant” Pike.

But one of the most consequential shifts in what the Pike would look like going forward was the Board’s approval of the Columbia Pike Form-Based Code for commercial centers in 2003 and, a decade later, for residential areas.

“It really gave us a bit of a blueprint on how we were going to move forward,” CPRO Executive Kim Klingler tells ARLnow.

The purpose was to standardize how new buildings along the Pike were physically going to look and integrate into the community.

“It focuses on the form of the building, which is a little different from the way that other zoning codes work,” says John Snyder, Chair of CPRO’s board. “Like, how tall is the building? What’s the shape? [How many] setbacks from the street? How many stories should it be? [The code] puts together all the rules about that… it’s all set in advance.”

The intent was to “foster a vital main street” with mixed-use buildings that had shops, cafes, and other commercial uses on the ground floor and residences and offices above. It also encourages more sidewalks, trees, and public spaces (like Penrose Square).

The hope is to create a more dense, pedestrian, and public transportation-friendly community.

“A walkable community, like a traditional downtown,” says Snyder.

The plus of following a form-based code for the community is that it is known what new buildings are going to look like and avoids a potential years-long battle with a developer over details like height and design.

For the developer, adhering to the code provides incentives like more density and less red tape.

When first adopted, the county was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to use this strategy to redevelop existing, older neighborhoods.

For the most part, proponents say it has worked. While developers can choose whether they adhere to the code, more than 90% of the new buildings along the Pike were developed with it according to Snyder.

“We’ve gotten 12 or 13 new projects, gained some plaza areas we didn’t have before, and we got ground floor retail,” he says. “We got economic revitalization.”

But with economic revitalization, comes other challenges.

With more amenities, a neighborhood becomes more attractive and vulnerable to natural market forces.

“The whole idea for a building like Centro was to build one that has amenities like you’d expect on [Metro’s] Orange Line, except cheaper,” says Snyder. “Because it is close to everything… it drives prices up. And that puts pressure on the affordable apartments.”

While the county has made efforts to preserve and increase affordable housing along the Pike, not all of their proposals have been embraced by the public as good enough.

It isn’t just about rental units, either. Economic revitalization can drive up housing costs and potentially prevent those in the middle-income brackets from buying homes in the community.

While there are a lot of reasons why the Arlington housing market is hot right now, the redevelopment of Columbia Pike is a factor.

“[Housing] prices are definitely up and… can change the tone of a neighborhood,” says Snyder.

The county’s Missing Middle Housing Study is diving into how to address this challenge, but solutions may be hard to come by even if everyone wants to preserve a community that’s accessible for all.

“The goal has always been for the Pike to be a very diverse community — culturally, socioeconomically, and generationally,” Klingler told ARLnow. “We still want to make Columbia Pike a place for all people.”

But is that even possible? Some certainly don’t think so.

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Morning Notes

A deer and a fox in the rain, near the Arlington-Fairfax border (photo courtesy Marc Roth)

‘Kindness Yard Sale’ in Penrose — “Susan Thompson-Gaines wants to spread kindness. This weekend, she’s doing it through a big yard sale at her house. She says it’s hard to miss the home she shares with her husband, David — it’s the yellow house with purple trim at the corner of South Second and South Fillmore streets in Arlington… what makes this yard sale different is that the proceeds are all spent on acts of kindness.” [WTOP]

Flood Cleanup for Pike Businesses — From WUSA 9’s Matthew Torres: “A dental hygienist sent me this other video of the flash flooding in Columbia Pike in Arlington. Their business had to close today as they clean up the water that seeped through. Other businesses are having to do the same thing.” [Twitter]

More Vaccinations Added to State Stats — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has incorporated vaccination data from jurisdictions in Maryland. Virginians who received vaccinations in Maryland that were not reported through the Virginia Immunization Information System are now included in the locality and statewide dashboards. The updated data reflects an increase in COVID-19 vaccine first dose rates of 0.33% Alexandria, 0.46% Arlington, and 0.39% Eastern Shore.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]

AFAC Gets Donation from Library Program –“Representatives of the Friends of the Arlington Public Library (FOAL), together with the Arlington Public Library and Arlington County Department of Technology Services, presented a check for $4,525 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). The donation represents the number of Library readers who successfully completed the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. The Library’s popular Summer Reading program helps children avoid the ‘summer slide.'” [Arlington County]

Fmr. County Board Member Dies — “Jay Edwin Ricks, 88, passed away at home in Arlington, Virginia on July 18, 2021 due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease… In 1967, Jay was elected to the Arlington County Board where he served until 1971. During this time, he was active in transportation issues and Vice Chairman of Metro during the critical phase of planning the Metro system.” [Legacy]

Local Church Adapts to Pandemic — ‘As another wave of the pandemic comes at us, we are different as a congregation,’ said the Rev. Amanda Poppei, senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia… Poppei’s congregation began hosting outdoor events in spring 2021, including a handbell parade to ring in Pride Month in June and a Flower Communion in May, which they intentionally designed as a multiplatform event.” [UUWorld]

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A multi-year project to improve transit along Columbia Pike has been delayed by design problems associated with the proposed bus shelters.

As a result, the first eight of 23 new transit stations, which the Department of Environmental Services was aiming to deliver this spring, will likely be installed next spring. In the meantime, temporary shelters have been installed at these locations, and bus service is set to return to half of them tomorrow (Friday).

The new stations comprise a $16.9 million project to transform the Pike into a “transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly ‘Main Street,'” according to the county. The County Board approved the upgrades in the summer of 2018 as part of the 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.

“New stations will make transit along the Pike easier, safer, more attractive and accessible — encouraging more people to use it,” the project webpage said.

The bus stop project dates back to the since-nixed plan for a Columbia Pike streetcar. A prototype stop, at the corner of the Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, made national headlines after ARLnow revealed that it cost more than $1 million.

A map of completed, under-construction and planned changes to Columbia Pike for improved bus transit and multimodal experience (via Arlington County)

More recently, the station work has been stalled by structural flaws discovered with the bus shelters specially designed for the project, which feature a kit-of-parts design intended to cut down on costs compared to the custom-made $1 million “Super Stop.”

“Last November, our shelter fabricator, Future Systems, built a prototype of the shelter and identified stability issues with it,” said DES spokesman Eric Balliet. “After the design was revised, there were still concerns about its construct-ability and stability. These design issues were causing project costs to increase and further delays in delivery of the first stations.”

DES has opted to install prefabricated shelters from the same manufacturer, a decision supported by the County Board, which directed the department to finish these eight stations by the end of summer 2022. Choosing the prefabricated shelters will allow DES to finish those stations in spring 2022 instead of spring 2023, and will save more than $7 million, according to a recent report.

“Kit of parts” bus shelter vs. prefabricated bus shelter (via Arlington County)

“By the end of the year, we expect to receive the final shelter drawings from Future Systems, to be followed in early 2022 with a Notice to Proceed for production and delivery of the first eight station shelters,” Balliet said. “Installation of shelters and amenities for the first eight stations is expected in spring 2022.”

The prefabricated shelters maintain some of the original shelter’s features — glass finishing, protection against bad weather and real-time bus arrival displays — and will have equivalent or more seating. The shelters are also shallower, giving pedestrians more room.

When finished, the stations will be accessible to people with disabilities and will have platforms that can fit two buses.

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(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Floodwaters have receded after Columbia Pike was blocked at S. Greenbrier Street around 3:30 this afternoon.

At least one car was stuck in the high water, near the 55 Hundred apartments, just west of the county line, prompting a water rescue operation. Other traffic could be seen turning around.

Firefighters successfully rescued the driver of the vehicle that was stuck, according to scanner traffic.

Reports of flooding came as the National Weather Service issued a new Flood Warning for the county. Just before 4 p.m., a Flash Flood Warning was also issued.

From NWS:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* FLOOD WARNING…

* UNTIL 930 PM EDT THURSDAY.

* AT 321 PM EDT, DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED HEAVY RAIN DUE TO THUNDERSTORMS. FLOODING IS ONGOING OR EXPECTED TO BEGIN SHORTLY IN THE WARNED AREA. BETWEEN 1 AND 1.5 INCHES OF RAIN HAVE FALLEN.

* SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE… ARLINGTON… ALEXANDRIA… BETHESDA… RESTON… ANNANDALE… SPRINGFIELD… FORT WASHINGTON… FAIRFAX… LANGLEY PARK… FORT HUNT… VIENNA… GROVETON… FALLS CHURCH… HUNTINGTON… CORAL HILLS… BLADENSBURG… MANTUA… PIMMIT HILLS… NATIONAL HARBOR… ROSSLYN…

ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 1 TO 2 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN THE WARNED AREA.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS. MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN VEHICLES.

In addition to the Pike flooding, high standing water was reported along I-395.

Previously, NWS issued a Flash Flood Watch for the area, effective until 9 p.m.

The rain has already cancelled at least one local event, a pop-up jazz performance in Rosslyn.

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Map of the Arlington National Cemetery Expansion and Defense Access Road Project (Photo via US Federal Highway Administration)

Construction to realign the eastern end of Columbia Pike, which is part of the project to expand Arlington National Cemetery, is expected to start soon.

The Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (ANC DAR) Project will realign Columbia Pike from east of S. Oak Street to Washington Blvd (Route 27). It will also modify the S. Joyce Street intersection, change the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, and replace Southgate Road with an added segment of S. Nash Street.

Because of this, and as of early last month, parking is now permanently prohibited on Southgate Road between S. Oak Street and Columbia Pike.

Construction is expected to start in the early fall and be completed within four years, by summer of 2025, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) spokesperson tells ARLnow. This timeline is slightly pushed back from what’s listed on the FHWA project page.

The project will also add a new sidewalk and a shared-use trail, improve bicycle facilities, add street lighting, and put utility lines underground. FHWA’s project page also notes that the work done will be consistent with Arlington County Master Transportation Plan and Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project. No residents will be displaced, though construction may bring added noise and traffic disruptions to the nearby Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.

All of this is being done to accommodate a 70 acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. It will add about 60,00 burial sites, including an above-ground columbarium, which will allow the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds.

This project, particularly the modification of the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, will also provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center. Construction on that is expected to start late 2023 with a completion set for two years later.

Rendering of the planned Columbia Pike realignment and the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center (Photo courtesy of Pentagon Memorial Fund, Inc./Fentress Architects)

While this realignment project has been long awaited, it hasn’t happened without some proverbial bumps in the road. Initially, the Army proposed a land exchange agreement with the county where the federal government would acquire the land from the county that was needed for the expansion. In exchange, the county would get “all land south of a realigned Columbia Pike to meet a variety of public facility needs.”

But, in 2017, the Army decided against the land exchange agreement, leaving the county “disappointed.”

Then, last summer, the federal government filed a civil suit to claim through eminent domain nine acres of land from Arlington County. The feds offered the county $10 for the land, but Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac told DCist/WAMU in November 2020 that wasn’t going to cut it.

However, in January 2021, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved an agreement with the state, the Army, and the U.S. Department of Transportation that essentially provided the needed land in exchange for the feds paying for nearly all of the $60 million project. The county is only responsible for $500,000 to design a multi-use trail along Washington Blvd.

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Gavel (Flickr photo by Joe Gratz)

An Arlington man has been sentenced to decades in prison for killing a man in the Douglas Park neighborhood three years ago.

Michael Nash, 29, is set to spend nearly 35 years behind bars. Five years and one month of the 40 years sentence was suspended. Nash will have five years of supervised probation.

Earlier this summer, Nash pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing Arlington resident Patricio Salazar, who had tried to intervene when he found Nash sexually and physically assaulting his then-girlfriend. Other charges, including forcible sodomy and robbery, were dropped as part of the agreement.

“It was the most accurate charge for the most serious conduct, and it had the support of the other victims,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said.

At a 2019 hearing, Nash’s then-girlfriend told a judge that they argued loudly enough for police to come, but were allowed to leave together after separate interviews, the Washington Post reported. They continued walking and ended up on near Doctor’s Run Park.

That’s when Nash “pushed her to the ground and began beating her, stripping her of her clothing and touching her sexually,” the Post reports.

Salazar tried to stop him, but Nash beat him and knocked him unconscious, police said at the time. Salazar was transported to George Washington University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Nash fled the scene and robbed a woman of her cell phone, police previously said. Officers and a police helicopter eventually apprehended Nash near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.

Salazar’s sister Loty launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to honor her brother’s life and raise money for three organizations that support victims of sexual assault in the U.S. and Bolivia. It brought in more than $30,000. Bradley Flood, a witness, also raised money for the family.

His sister remembered Salazar as “one of the most kindhearted and genuine people I have ever met.”

“And, as he showed by his final act of great courage, he was a man of integrity and character, who believed in doing the right thing no matter what the cost,” she wrote.

Flood wrote that it chills him to think what would have happened if Salazar had not intervened.

“He is a Good Samaritan if there ever was one,” he said.

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Celtic House Irish Pub on Columbia Pike says it “does not wish to embroil itself” in the ongoing saga involving a local TikTok personality.

The bar released a statement on its social media channels yesterday, in response to allegations traded between TikToker Coco Briscoe, who attracted a sizable following with her videos about dating in the D.C. area, and a bartender the business now calls “a former employee.”

While the statement suggests that the bartender who Briscoe accuses of harassing her is no longer employed by Celtic House, it does not specify the circumstances around her departure. The bartender previously testified in court, during a hearing about an emergency protective order she obtained against Briscoe, about being “terrified” of the social media personality and her devoted followers.

“I’m afraid to be in my house. I’m afraid to be in this courtroom with her,” the bartender testified. “I just want to be left alone and don’t want attention.”

The judge allowed the protective order to expire, suggesting that it should not have been issued by a county magistrate in the first place due to a lack of evidence of legitimate physical threats, but Briscoe is still facing a misdemeanor charge for allegedly violating it by continuing to post about the situation on TikTok. She is next due in Arlington General District Court in two weeks, on Sept. 23.

Briscoe says the bartender is among a group of people, including employees of two Columbia Pike bars, who “bully, stalk and harass” her, making her feel unsafe in her neighborhood.

The Celtic House statement references at least some of Briscoe’s specific claims, which she has repeated in many of her dozens of TikTok posts over the past month — namely that video taken of Briscoe riding her bike near one of the bars, along with derogatory comments about her, were shared in a group chat.

“It would be improper to further comment… or to engage persons who have attacked the Celtic House, or the reputation of its owners and staff,” the statement says, before adding: “To be clear, the Celtic House does not condone the filming of any patron by employees, nor the public dissemination of pictures or comments on the actions of its patrons, except where such matters are required by, or, in furtherance of some interest of law enforcement or required as part of a civil or investigative action.”

The bartender in turn testified in court that it is Briscoe who has been the aggressor, weaponizing her following to harass her and others via hundreds of phone calls, social media messages and online reviews. The video sent to the group chat, which Briscoe subsequently obtained, was intended as a warning to local restaurant employees about an erratic customer, the bartender said.

Briscoe, meanwhile, has continued to rail against the two bars — Celtic House and Rebellion on the Pike — and their employees in videos posted since her last court appearance. She has also levied various accusations against the Arlington County Police Department, ARLnow, the Washington Post, and online review site Yelp.

Celtic House, in its statement, asserted that its business has been unfairly targeted. The bar “does not tolerate, nor wish to participate in on-line posturing or bullying,” it said.

Celtic House’s owner has not responded to emailed requests for further comment.

A statement issued by Rebellion on the Pike last month insisted that the accusations against it were an “attempt to smear our business [that] has zero evidence and truth to it.”

The full statement from Celtic House is below.

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It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not going to consider a Metro line through Columbia Pike any time soon.

For the last year and a half, there were some signs that such an expansion — which was part of initial Metro planning in the 1960s but was never built — was an actual possibility.

In December 2019, Metro mulled the idea for a Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station, as one of a handful of ways to address congestion in the Rosslyn Metro tunnel, system reliability and future ridership growth. News of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which coincided with WMATA’s deliberations, further crystallized those hopes.

A new study posted this week, however, indicates this extension — which nearly 70% of ARLnow readers supported in an April poll — has been ruled out. That follows a cost-benefit analysis by planners, which favored four other routes — each starting with a second Metro station in Rosslyn and adding an underground Metro station in Georgetown — as well as two options that don’t involve new construction.

WMATA is looking for the next way to expand Metro on a scale similar to the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, as it seeks to alleviate traffic and congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel and along the the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. In early 2019, it launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify a line that would do so.

Metro planners outlined the four finalists, absent the Pike, in an update to the BOS Study that Metro posted this week. The four options use a second Rosslyn station to alleviate congestion at the existing station, and establish a long-discussed underground station in Georgetown, which has never had a Metro connection.

The possible projects, which would cost billions of dollars to build, include a Blue Line loop to National Harbor — which planners think would add the most new riders and revenue to the Metro system — as well as a Blue Line extension to Greenbelt, a Silver Line express tunnel option through Arlington, and a Silver Line to New Carrollton.

The express option “would create a separate tunnel and tracks for the Silver Line, starting at West Falls Church Station,” according to WMATA. A diagram suggests it would skip all Arlington stations except the second Rosslyn station and perhaps a second Ballston station.

“From WFC to a new second Rosslyn station, the new tunnel could support express service, local service or a mix of express and local service,” WMATA said. “From the second Rosslyn station, the Silver Line would travel through Georgetown…. to Greenbelt.”

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Morning Notes

Northam Declares State of Emergency — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency to respond to impacts from Tropical Depression Ida, which is expected to cause heavy rains and flooding along the I-81 and I-66 corridors. Localities in the southwest region have already experienced heavy rainfall in recent days, leading to flash floods and complicating storm preparation efforts. In addition to the flood threat, there is also a risk of tornadoes across the Commonwealth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Jail to Distribute Fentanyl Tests — “Beginning September 1, 2021, Arlington County will begin to distribute fentanyl test strips to individuals being released from incarceration. This new effort is in response to rising overdose numbers.” [Arlington County]

Pike Apartment Building Sold — “Zurich Alternative Asset Management has sold Siena Park, a 188-unit multifamily community in Arlington, Va., for $80.1 million. The property includes 33,602 square feet of retail and 17,373 square feet of office space. Located at 2301 Columbia Pike, Siena Park is just 15 minutes from Washington, D.C.” [Commercial Observer]

Marymount Testing VR Headsets — “Eric Bubar, a Marymount associate professor of physics, has led 3D printing projects and testing for face masks and other polymer-based personal protective equipment. But more recently, the professor… is working with three other science faculty members to develop virtual reality technology for Marymount chemistry students to take lab classes remotely — and, perhaps in the future, for physical therapy patients.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Catholic Org Seeking Help with Refugees — “Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, diocesan Catholic Charities has issued a plea for resources to support Afghan refugees resettling in Virginia as the Taliban’s rapid resurgence prompted Afghan translators and others who assisted U.S. military forces to flee the country along with their families… Catholic Charities has prioritized finding properties for rent in Fredericksburg, Sterling and Woodbridge, as the agency hopes to place the Afghans near family and friends in the area.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

It’s National Preparedness Month — “It’s a situation everyone has experienced: The media and public safety agencies warn of an impending storm, chance of power outages, and loss of service. But you find yourself scrambling at the last minute for batteries, water, and ideas to keep your family entertained. Disasters don’t plan ahead — even during a pandemic — but you can.” [Arlington County]

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Thirteen Miller Lites for the 13 U.S. servicemen and women who died in a suicide bombing near the Kabul airport last week (courtesy photo)

On Sunday, 13 pints of Miller Lite stood vigil at an empty, but reserved, table at The Celtic House Irish Pub & Restaurant on Columbia Pike.

The beers represented the 13 U.S. servicemen and women who died in suicide bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that also killed 170 Afghan civilians. Terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attacks conducted during the evacuation.

A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had purchased the beers after seeing posts on Facebook of similar scenes at other bars and thinking to herself, “This is good. This is something to do.”

Similar scenes played out in Courthouse at Ireland’s Four Courts and across the country, as individuals and bars have poured out beers and placed them at reserved tables to pay tribute to the fallen troops.

For the Celtic House patron, the little tribute and the now-complete withdrawal effort, were personal.

“Just by way of background, my husband died from suicide last year,” she told ARLnow. “He had several tours in Afghanistan. This is the kind of thing, that if he were still here — well, first of all, he would’ve been super upset — but this is something he would’ve done. It was a way to honor those who were lost and honor him, in a way.”

The woman said the last few weeks have been hard on her, and she had to stop watching the news coming from Afghanistan. Going to the bar, which she said is her local watering hole, was also a way of distracting herself from the news of Hurricane Ida that devastated her hometown of New Orleans (the remnants of which are now bound for the D.C. area).

The reaction to her beer purchase was positive, she said.

“I didn’t have my phone yesterday,” she said. “I got the guys to take a picture, and send it to me. I did post it on Facebook, and got positive reactions there, and I sent the pictures to a bunch of my husband’s friends.”

The Celtic House didn’t charge her for half of the beers, she said — but she would’ve still done it if they had. The bar posted the picture on Twitter on Sunday.

A similar tribute could be seen at Ireland’s Four Courts. On Saturday, a group of Marines who were regulars four years ago and have since moved back to the area, ordered 13 beers, General Manager Dave Cahill said.

They were placed on a table reserved all weekend with a napkin note that read “reserved for our fallen heroes.”

Cahill connected the tribute to the “Missing Man Table” tradition of setting a table for fallen or missing soldiers with a number of symbolic pieces. People with loved ones buried in Arlington National Cemetery regularly come to the pub and place a mug on the table in memory of the deceased friend or family member, he said.

“We have a lot of Marines who come in here,” he said. “A lot of Marines would be deployed here for a number of years, and people who are visiting Arlington Cemetery come in as well.”

The Celtic House patron said hers was a “trite little gesture,” but she encouraged people to reach out to the veterans in their lives, support organizations and get involved in other ways.

“The idea should be that, all the people who were with them — and not even the people wounded — they’re all going to suffer unimaginable trauma from seeing their friends blown to pieces, and trying to rescue them. One hundred seventy civilians were also killed,” she said. “Just get involved. See what you can do.”

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