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The Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery has reopened to the public after six months of significant renovations.

The memorial opened its doors on Friday for Memorial Day weekend, after closing in late November for construction. The work focused on upgrading restrooms to make them ADA-accessible and more family-friendly, Kaprice Dyson, the memorial’s director of marketing, tells ARLnow. Additionally, the 196-seat theater was turned into a multi-purpose event space.

A phase two renovation is forthcoming at the end of 2023 that will concentrate on the exhibit galleries. The funds for the renovations came from “100% donations,” Dyson says.

As part of the reopening celebration, Military Women’s Memorial welcomed an all-woman Honor Flight yesterday (Wednesday) to be among the first groups to tour the revamped facilities. More than a hundred female veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Desert Storm visited from Orlando, Florida. The oldest veteran on the trip was 96 years old.

The $22 million Military Women’s Memorial opened in October 1997 and is located at the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. Incorporated into its facade is a retaining wall — known as a hemicycle – that was first dedicated in 1932 as part of the Memorial Bridge project. It’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The memorial honors the estimated three million female veterans that have served since the Revolutionary War. It’s the “nation’s only major national memorial to honor all women who have [defended] the nation,” according to its website.

The memorial also features a historical database featuring stories of women who served, etched glass tablets, reflecting pool, a 200-jet fountain, and exhibits, including one that honors the contributions of servicewomen of color to the United States. That exhibit went on display in March 2021 and is now part of the memorial’s permanent collection, Dyson says.

Over Memorial Day weekend including Friday, more than a thousand people visited the memorial, according to Dyson.

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Morning Notes

Ballston Quarter at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Poll: D.C. Residents Prefer Alexandria — A poll on Twitter with more than 1,000 respondents shows D.C. residents saying they’re prefer to live in Alexandria over Arlington, if they had to choose, by a ratio of nearly 2:1. [Twitter]

ACPD Lays Wreaths at Memorial — “Following the Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day, ACPD’s Honor Guard laid wreaths at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in recognition of Arlington’s seven heroic officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial features the names of more than 22,000 federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation. We are committed to never forgetting their sacrifices in service to their communities.” [Facebook]

Roads in Rosslyn Closing for Police 5K — “The 2022 National Police Week 5k will take place on Saturday, May 14, 2022.  The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures to accommodate the event.” [ACPD]

Reminder: Expect Police Motorcades — “Police Week is scheduled from Wednesday, May 11 through Tuesday, May 17. Most of the scheduled activities will take place Thursday through Sunday, though the arrival of families of fallen officers on Wednesday and Thursday will prompt many of the motorcades and rolling road closures.” [ARLnow]

Dems Honor Longtime Volunteer — “The recipient of the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s highest accolade for longtime service says she is pleased that the party continues to expand in both size and scope. ‘With more people doing more things, our organization is more complex than ever,’ Inta Malis said during a May 10 online event sponsored by Arlington Senior Democrats.” [Sun Gazette]

TV Station Honors Arlington Nurses — “As 7News celebrates the third day of Nurses Week, we salute the men and women of VHC Health in Northern Virginia. The community hospital in Arlington is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and is a designated Magnet hospital, one of the highest group honors for a hospital.” [WJLA]

Startup Founder Helping Refugees — “As the clock struck 11 p.m. on March 19, Yulia Yaani gathered a group of Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border. She stepped onto the bus that night, alongside roughly 50 women and children, and they traveled to Denmark for the next 17 hours — to escape the war with Russia… Yaani is co-founder and CEO of Arlington fintech [company] RealAtom, a 5-year-old startup.” [Washington Business Journal]

Kiwanis Donate to Ukraine Efforts — “The Kiwanis Club of Arlington has donated $5,000 to the World Central Kitchen (WCK) to assist with relief efforts in Ukraine. Proceeds from the club’s fund-raising activities, including its annual blueberry sale, are being used to support the WCK with their meals programs on the ground in Ukraine and in surrounding countries.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Mostly cloudy and cool throughout the day, with a slight chance of rain. High of 68 and low of 58. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Blooming trees and the dog park at Gateway Park in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Animal Shelter at Capacity — “Our dog kennels are at capacity (every single kennel is occupied)… but what about your home? That extra seat on your couch sure would be a lot cuter with a furry friend curled up on it.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Fox 5]

Parents Peeved at Teacher Transfer — From an online petition with nearly 500 signatures: “Dr. Sharon Gaston has worked at Taylor Elementary school for 12 years as the lead reading specialist. For the past 11 years she was appointed under 2 different principals as their designee. This past school year she applied to be the principal and unfortunately was passed over. The new principal… is transferring her to a high school. Why? We want answers.” [Change.org]

APS Announces New Principals — “So happy and proud to announce that Ms. Frances Lee has been appointed as the next principal of Ashlawn Elementary! She is currently assistant principal of Escuela Key.” “At the April 28 School Board meeting, the School Board appointed Ms. Bridget Loft as the new Swanson principal. Her appointment is effective May 3.” [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]

New Japanese Eatery at Mall Food Court — “Sarku Japan… The largest and most successful Japanese Quick Service Restaurant chain in the US is coming! Come celebrate the grand opening of Sarku Japan at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Sample their famous signature chicken teriyaki at the food court.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Sentenced for Bias Attack — “A man from Arlington, Virginia, was found guilty and sentenced Friday for a hate crime attack on two Latino construction workers back in 2019. A judge sentenced Kurt Madsen, 53, to 540 days — nearly a year and a half — in jail, but suspended his term to time served as long as he completes two years of probation. Before his trial, Madsen spent 160 days in jail.” [WTOP, U.S. DOJ]

Police Memorial Ceremony Planned — “The annual Arlington County Peace Officers Memorial Day Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at 8 a.m. at the Arlington County Justice Center, 1425 North Courthouse Road… The public is invited; the event also will be live streamed through the county government’s Facebook page.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Starting to Buy Electric Buses — “New details of Metro’s Zero-Emission Bus Transition Plan, presented at this week’s meeting of the Board of Directors, outlines how the agency will transition to a zero-emission bus fleet including testing and evaluation, infrastructure and facility upgrades, and procurement efforts.” [WMATA]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 76 and low of 61. Sunrise at 6:10 am and sunset at 8:03 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Looking at the Key Bridge and Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent)

Obit for a Local Legend — “John T. ‘Til’ Hazel Jr., a Virginia lawyer and developer who played a crucial role in building the Capital Beltway and transforming Northern Virginia from a rural outpost of Washington into an economic powerhouse, died March 15 at his home… He was a force behind the rise to prominence of GMU, acquiring land and lobbying for a school of law in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Post, Virginia Business]

County Holding Covid Remembrance — “The County Board invites members of our community to join in remembering Arlington neighbors who have lost their lives to COVID-19 over the past two years… Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 02:00 PM.” [Arlington County]

Repeated Thefts from Courthouse CVS — “The male suspect entered into the business, went behind the counter and attempted to open the cash register before being confronted by an employee. The suspect then walked through the store and stole a beverage and food items before leaving. The suspect then reentered and exited the business two more times, stealing more beverages and food items in the process. During his third entry into the business, the suspect was confronted by an employee and attempted to throw a beverage at a witness who approached him. The suspect then fled the scene on foot but returned a short time later and was taken into custody by responding officers.” [ACPD]

Beyer Blasts Plane Plan — “Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Representative of Northern Virginia and member of the Quiet Skies Caucus, today wrote to the heads of the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Aviation Administration seeking a halt to procedural changes for regional airplane flight patterns. Beyer’s letter noted that the because the changes were not preceded by an environmental review process and were implemented just before a major drop-off in flights caused by the pandemic, their impact on noise levels in the region is just starting to be felt in full for the first time now.” [Press Release]

It’s St. Patrick’s Day — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 57 and low of 50. Sunrise at 7:18 am and sunset at 7:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent

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Morning Notes

The sun shines through a tree showing fall colors in the Ballston area (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

DCA Changes Next Week — From NBC 4’s Adam Tuss: “Major change coming to @Reagan_Airport next Tuesday – these new security checkpoints open, changing the feel of the airport. The main hall (Ben’s Chili Bowl, Legal Seafood) now goes BEHIND security.” [Twitter, Twitter, NBC 4]

Chilly Weather Poses Lunch Challenge — “Having tried where possible to provide school-lunch service outdoors since August, Arlington school leaders are now faced with the task of trying to figure out a plan to accommodate students inside while meeting their own social-distancing guidelines. And it looks like it’s being left up to the individual schools to thrash out their own approach.” [Sun Gazette]

Memorial Service for Pentagon Police Officer — “The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) will hold a memorial service for fallen Pentagon police officer Cpl. George Gonzalez, on Thursday, Nov. 4, 10 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Center Courtyard. Cpl. Gonzalez, a Pentagon police officer and Army Reservist, was killed in the line of duty Aug. 3, 2021, during an attack at the Pentagon Metro Platform. His body was laid to rest Aug. 16 in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.” [Dept. of Defense]

It’s ThursdayAreas of frost before 9 a.m. today. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 53. Sunrise at 7:38 a.m. and sunset at 6:04 p.m. Tomorrow it will be sunny, with a high near 54.

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Ceremonies and events will be held in Arlington this weekend to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Saturday.

The events will pay tribute to those who died as well as to Arlington’s first responders, whose response to the Pentagon attack has been hailed as a “model for the nation” by the 9/11 Commission.

Among the events on tap are a wreath-laying ceremony, a memorial 5K, a bike ride, a softball tournament, and a private event at the Pentagon for the families of the victims.

With some events at-capacity or closed to the public, the county says locals can observe the day from home, by watching short videos produced by the county, or by hanging American flags.

Wreath-Laying Ceremony

The Arlington County Public Safety Combined Honor Guard will perform a Presentation of Colors and lay a wreath at county government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd at 9 a.m tomorrow (Friday). A moment of silence will be observed at 9:37 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

The ceremony can be steamed on the county website, YouTube, or Facebook, or viewed on Comcast channel 1085 or Verizon FiOS channel 39.

Memorial 5K

Arlington’s police and fire departments, the Sheriff’s Office and the Emergency Communications Center will host the annual 9/11 Memorial 5K Run and fundraiser this Saturday. The race starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Crystal City (300 Army Navy Drive). The in-person race is at capacity, but the event is still registering virtual participants.

Pentagon Memorial Event

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is currently closed due to COVID-19, with no reopening date set. Family members of victims and other invited guests will be admitted this weekend for a seated event with social distancing and various speakers.

‘Ride of Hope’ Cycling Event

Cyclists will ride 15 miles, starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday, and stop at the nine Arlington fire stations that responded to the attack. The ride ends with a moment of silence and a wreath ceremony.

Those who responded 20 years ago will ride to the Pentagon 9/11 memorial and lay another wreath. All retired and active first responders are invited, as well as family and friends 18 and older. If spots are available, other adults can join as well.

Photography Exhibit

Three local photographers will host a photography exhibit entitled “Still Standing — Still Free” at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, with original photos, a video of the immediate aftermath, 9/11 artifacts and never-before-seen snapshots. The display will be free to the public. It runs from Saturday, Sept. 11 through Monday, Oct. 11.

First Responders Cup Tournament

A softball tournament at the Barcroft Park (4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive) on Saturday will raise money for Pentagon Disaster Relief charities. All games are free to participate in and open to anyone who is interested. Opening ceremonies start at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and will feature the Armed Services Color Guard, the 3rd Army Old Guard Ceremonial Fife and Drums Corps, and the fire department.

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(Updated 8/27/21) The long-planned 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center is aiming for a September 2025 opening, executive director Jim Laychak tells ARLnow.

A video announcement with updated designs, plans, and visuals for the education center that will be located along the soon-to-be-realigned Columbia Pike will be unveiled in the coming weeks and prior to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Laychak says.

The website and provided renderings currently shows a sleek, modern design with exhibits, “interactive biographies” of those who died at the Pentagon on 9/11, a rooftop terrace, ample parking, and a family gallery.

The project has contracted Fentress Architects to design the building as well as the museum design firm PRD to do the exhibits. PRD recently helped to design D.C.’s Museum of the Bible.

Construction on the anticipated companion to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is expected to start within two years.

“September 2023, we could start construction and, in two years from that, we will be open,” says Laychak, who also oversaw the building of the nearby memorial. “It’s about a two year construction [phase].”

However, that timeline isn’t set and and is dependent on the completion of the Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads Project. That project will realign Columbia Pike, modify the S. Joyce Street intersection, and shift the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd. interchange. This is all being done to allow for Arlington National Cemetery to expand.

“The site where we are going to build is on that whole grassy area where the gas station used to be,” says Laychak. “It’s got a cloverleaf there and… that needs to change to a parallel on and off ramp… to Washington Blvd. So, all of that needs to happen first.”

Construction on the road realignment was originally slated to start  in “summer 2021,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, but work hasn’t begun yet.

ARLnow has reached out to the department about an updated timeline for the project but has yet to hear back as of publication.

The Pentagon Memorial opened to the public in 2008, but the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center wasn’t announced until late September 2015. It will sit on land owned by Arlington National Cemetery.

“The 9/11 Pentagon Visitor Education Center site is in a dramatic location,” the museum’s website said back in 2015. “Right where the attack of 9/11 took place and adjacent to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and Air Force Memorial.”

In 2016, renderings were displayed at the Pentagon City mall. Initially, it was expected to be completed by 2020 but that didn’t happen due to the project needing to wait for the ANC expansion and roads projects to take shape, says Laychak.

The last few years have mostly been filled with completing the architecture design, raising money, and reassembling a board of directors that now includes Sean Connaughton, a former Virginia transportation secretary.

The project has raised about $5 million, which was used to complete the design of the education center and exhibits. Overall, it will need to raise another $80 million, which Laychak estimates will be a split between federal appropriations (much like what was the case for the memorial) and private funds. The executive team is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise those funds.

Laychak believes the addition of the education center, along with the expansion of the cemetery and the roads project, will transform the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial into a “destination location.” It will also make the memorial much easier to get to, he says, since right now it can be a bit of a maze of a walk through parking lots, concrete barriers, and closed access points.

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The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial (courtesy of 9/11 Trail)

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is currently closed to the public due COVID protocols and may not be open to the public by September 11, a Pentagon spokesperson confirms to ARLnow.

The Department of Defense closed down the 9/11 Memorial and public tours again earlier this month due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the region.

At this point, it’s unlikely that the memorial in Arlington will be reopened to the public on September 11, the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Pentagon.

“We can not predict when it will be open again,” Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough tells ARLnow.

As of August 2, the Pentagon reservation has been under Health Protection Condition Bravo (HPCON Bravo), meaning there’s “moderate” community transmission. This lines up with CDC’s data on August 2 showing that Arlington, as a whole, was seeing “substantial” community transmission. (It was recently upgraded to “high” by the CDC.)

Gough says the restrictions on the memorial will only loosen when the entire reservation moves to HPCON Alpha — “limited” community transmission.

While the memorial is outside, it operates under the parameters of the entire Pentagon. Meaning, it will only reopen to the public when the Defense Department shifts the entire reservation back to HPCON Alpha.

While the memorial probably won’t be open for visitation by the general public, there will be a small ceremony on the morning of September 11 for families and invited guests only.

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A 1,300-mile network of trails that connects Arlington to the two other sites of the Sept. 11 terror attacks could be granted federal designation next month.

Initially founded in the weeks after the attacks, the expansive September 11th National Memorial Trail, which runs through six states and D.C., has yet to be fully completed.

Federal designation would give the network of trails name-recognition and help the nonprofit alliance administering the trail fund its completion in the coming decades, proponents say.

A bill advocating for federal designation, put forward and sponsored by Northern Virginia Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer, respectively, is with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last week.

If approved by the Senate, locals riding on the Mount Vernon Trail — which is part of the 9/11 Memorial Trail — or near Arlington National Cemetery may see new, standardized signage within the next year heralding the “September 11th National Memorial Trail Route,” according to Thomas Baxter, President of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, which administers the trail.

“The designation will help in our visibility of the 9/11 National Memorial Trail and will enhance our partnership with the National Parks Service,” the trail’s founder, David Brickley, tells ARLnow. “It’ll enhance the experience of the visitor and assure that that story of what happened on 9/11 are not forgotten.”

Brickley, a Virginian, says the move will be at little to no cost for local municipalities or the taxpayer. Outside of consistent signage across the six states and D.C., other practical implications — such as new construction — have yet to be teased out, according to Beyer’s team.

The trail route from the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania will be administered by the National Park Service. Brickley said maintenance will remain the responsibility of the trail’s alliance.

Still, the connection to NPS will help, as much of the trail runs through national park land, he said.

To make sure the trail isn’t too much of a burden to municipalities, Baxter said the trail alliance works with local community foundations to maintain individual sections.

In Arlington, “we are in discussions with several community foundations, but one has yet to be selected,” he said.

As for whether designation will bring long-term projects down the road, Beyer’s spokesman Aaron Fritschner said “we don’t know yet.”

“The first step is to get the federal designation, which is what Rep. Connolly’s bill does, and which would create a federal status so the 9/11 Memorial Trail remains protected by federal law along its full length, some of which runs through jurisdictions where you might have less certainty about it remaining protected without a federal designation than you would expect in a place like Arlington.”

About 51% of the 1,300-mile trail is designated for off road multi-use trails, meaning another 49% is not built up or runs through land that could one day be developed, Baxter said. Finishing the trail involves securing property, writing grants and working with local partners.

“It’s going to take a long time, probably decades, to get it all the way complete,” he said.

Designation will make the trail more competitive when applying for state, federal and private grants for building the trails and maintaining them, he said.

With federal designation possibly coming soon, Brickley thanked Beyer and Connolly for their support.

“Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer have been tremendous friends to the trail and the alliance,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for better congressmen helping with this project.”

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Fire Station 5 in Aurora Highlands (via Google Maps)

Arlington County’s first responders, family and friends will gather on Saturday, Sep. 11 for a bike ride to honor those who responded to the attack on the Pentagon 20 years ago.

The bike ride will also commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Called the 20th Anniversary 9/11 Ride of Hope, the 15-mile bike ride will stop at the nine Arlington fire stations that responded to the Sep. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon.

The ride will begin at 7 a.m. at Fire Station 6 (6950 Little Falls Road), near Falls Church, and for most attendees, will end at Fire Station 5 (1750 S. Hayes Street) in Aurora Highlands. There, organizers will hold a moment of silence.

There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony at Fire Station 5, which will be a “memorial service for a grand opening of a memorial park” that includes a steel beam from the World Trade Center, which currently lies next to the station, organizers Dale Smith and Christine Cornwell said.

Smith and Cornwell are both retired firefighters, and Smith was on the scene after the Sep. 11 attack on the Pentagon. First responders who were at the scene of the attack will then ride to the Pentagon 9/11 memorial to lay another wreath.

Organizers said the entire ride will be at a leisurely and relaxed pace and will have a police escort.

The bike ride is open to all retired and active first responders, along with family and friends over the age of 18. Other adults may join as well, but with a limit of 200 people, priority will be given to first responders. After conceiving the idea, the two obtained approval from the Arlington County Fire Department to hold the event.

Cornwell and Smith said they hope that even if people are unable to participate, they still support the riders along the route.

“We really would love for the citizens of Arlington to either flags on the route, be on the route, or make signs for the first responders. I think it would be a really uplifting thing,” Cornwell said.

The bike ride is one of several Arlington events that will be held to remember the attacks on Sep. 11, 2001. Later that day, Arlington’s 9/11 Memorial 5K will start at 6 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Mystery Disease Still Killing Songbirds — “Jennifer Toussaint, chief of animal control in Arlington, Virginia, can’t forget the four baby blue jays. In late May, worried residents had delivered the fledglings to her clinic just outside of Washington, D.C., within just a few hours. Each was plump, indicating ‘their parents had done a great job caring for them,’ Toussaint says. But the birds were lethargic, unable to keep their balance, and blinded by crusty, oozing patches that had grown over their eyes…. Since May, when the illness was first recognized in and around Washington, D.C., researchers have documented hundreds of cases in at least a dozen species of birds in nine eastern and midwestern states. ” [Science Magazine, InsideNova, Fox News]

Plaque to Honor Breast Health Fund’s Namesake — “The Arlington Free Clinic (AFC) on July 7 held a plaque unveiling to celebrate the life of Sharon McGowan, an Arlington mother of seven who died at age 45 after battling breast cancer, and to mark the transfer of a fund in her name supporting breast health… The fund supports mammograms and biopsies for uninsured patients (including those AFC serves) fighting breast cancer in Northern Virginia.” [Sun Gazette]

Pentagon City Bus Stop Relocations — “Starting on Sunday, July 11, bus stops A, B and C along S. Hayes Street at the Pentagon City Metro station will be closed while in road concrete pads are installed at the bus bays. Buses that serve the closed stops will be temporarily relocated to bus stops E, T1 and T2 (see map below). The bus stop relocations will mainly impact Metrobus and Metroway service. The bus stop relocations will not impact ART bus service.” [Arlington Transit]

Prosecutor Pushes Back on ‘Myths’ — From Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church: “Myth: Restorative justice is a ‘get out of jail free card.’ Reality: Restorative justice is not synonymous with diversion.” [Twitter]

Event for New Chamber Music Quartet — “The newly formed 9th Street Chamber Music LLC will host a launch party on Friday, July 16 at 5 p.m. on the lawn at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 915 North Oakland St. The event will include music, food and drink for purchase, a raffle and more.” [Sun Gazette]

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