Press Club

Morning Notes

Pastel colors in the skies over the National Mall during peak bloom weekend, as seen from Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Traffic Restricted on Deteriorating Bridge — “As a result of a bridge inspection today, Friday, March 25, engineers closed the existing southbound lane of the West Glebe Bridge between Arlington and Alexandria due to further degradation of structural beams.  The northbound lane of the bridge over South Four Mile Run will remain open, making the bridge one-way to traffic and requiring a detour for southbound automobiles. The bridge’s maximum load rating of 5 tons will remain in place with a critical need for heavier vehicles – primarily buses and dump trucks — to comply for public safety.” [Arlington County]

Graupel Covers Fields, Prompts Tweets — An ice pellet downpour covered the ground in parts of Arlington on Saturday afternoon: “Well that was wild… heavy downpour rain and graupel swept through near Clarendon.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The Story Behind the Pentagon Chicken — “The Pentagon Building Operations Command Center initially considered using on-staff pest control to capture the chicken. But the pest control staff wasn’t scheduled to come on duty for another hour. The Building Operations Command Center, or BOCC, then came up with the idea to contact the emergency number at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.” [Patch]

Bullying Incident at Middle School — “After a bullying incident involving her 6th grade son with autism, an Arlington mother asked the school board Thursday night to do more to create an environment where such incidents don’t happen to any child. On Friday both mother Kathleen Clark and her son Colton described what happened to 7 News, and Kathleen talked about changes she hopes Arlington Public Schools makes to help children better know how to relate to others who are different from them in some way.” [WJLA]

Seventh Grade Hoops Team Goes Undefeated — “An Arlington Travel Basketball girls teams capped an undefeated 16-0 season in the Fairfax County Youth Basketball League with victories in postseason tournament-championship games. The seventh-grade girls squad, coached by John Lomas, won the Division I championship game, 51-42, over Lee-Mount Vernon.” [Sun Gazette]

Lease Above Courthouse Metro Extended — “Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc. (CNI) extends federal services division office lease in Arlington, VA. Represented by Edward Saa and Timothy Jacobs, CNI Federal experienced explosive growth in the 2020-2021 government fiscal year in awarded contracts necessitating a 10,000-SF office presence to service customers.” [Press Release]

More Afternoon ART Buses — “More of a good thing: Midday frequency gets a boost for ART 52 and 75 bus weekday routes starting Monday.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Stabbing in Seven Corners — “Fairfax County police officers arrested and charged a 21-year-old Falls Church man after two men were stabbed just before 2 p.m. yesterday (Thursday). Police were called to Seven Corners at Arlington Boulevard and Patrick Henry Drive for an assault and determined a man was involved in two separate assaults that escalated when he stabbed both men, police said.” [FFXnow]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 37 and low of 28. Sunrise at 7:00 am and sunset at 7:29 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A patient reportedly suffering a mental health crisis overpowered a Butler Ambulance crew at a Montgomery County hospital and took it on a wild ride followed by police cars from several jurisdictions.

The pursuit eventually ended in Arlington, near the Pentagon, after more than 30 minutes.

It started the Maryland hospital around 2:40 a.m. when the patient started wrestling with the crew. He overpowered them and sped off with the strobe lights activated and the rear doors wide open.

The man traveled at modest speeds ranging between 55 and 65 mph while driving the ambulance on the major roads to reach I-270 and then the Beltway, according to scanner traffic.

For much of the trip he was reportedly on the phone with the Montgomery County 911 center. The operators urged him to pull over, but he refused. He continued driving on the Beltway, across the Potomac into Virginia, before turning onto I-66.

Finally, around 3:15 a.m., the man brought the ambulance to a stop in the area of Washington Boulevard and Route 110, adjacent to the Pentagon reservation, and was taken into custody by Arlington County police without further incident.

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A bunny, improbably inside the Pentagon courtyard

If you thought the Pentagon chicken was impressive, wait until you hear about the Pentagon courtyard bunny.

In what might be the world’s fluffiest and most adorable infiltration of a secure military installation, a bunny was recently spotted hopping around in the 5.1 acre outdoor courtyard at the center of the headquarters of the U.S. Dept. of Defense, ARLnow has learned.

There is no official confirmation of the bunny’s existence — the DoD said it does not keep tabs on small, harmless animals in the courtyard — but we have obtained photographic evidence, above, and an eyewitness account.

“I just wanted to highlight that while the Pentagon Chicken is receiving its 15 minutes of fame, the Pentagon Bunny actually successfully infiltrated the Pentagon,” a tipster tells ARLnow. “It is currently living peacefully somewhere in the Pentagon’s courtyard, a location that is likely the most heavily guarded rabbit burrow on the planet… that is until the restaurant in the Courtyard decides to have an extremely locally sourced courtyard-to-table special.”

Given that it is outdoors and has plenty of trees and people eating meals, the courtyard is naturally a hangout spot for birds, which can simply fly in. It’s unclear how a bunny would have hopped into a place surrounded by five rings of some of the most secure office space on earth, though there are some theories.

“Aside from birds I have not seen any other wildlife. That is why I thought the rabbit was so notable,” the tipster said. “A bunch of us were trying to figure out how the rabbit made it into the courtyard since there are no obvious points of entry. The current hypothesis is that the bunny was carried into the courtyard by the hawks that were nesting in one of the trees and dropped before it was fed to the offspring.”

Aerial view of the Pentagon (Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman)

A Pentagon spokesperson sent an appropriately non-specific response to ARLnow’s inquiry about the small mammal that’s apparently living inside the courtyard’s five walls.

“From time to time there may be various species of animals on the reservation that make it to the Center Courtyard,” said Sue Gough, Department of Defense spokesperson. “We normally do not intervene unless the animals create a hazard to building occupants, or the animal is at risk from our activities. In those situations, we will try to have it leave on its own accord, or capture it and release it to the environment where it is distanced from our activities (e.g., land adjacent to Boundary Channel).”

Pressed about this particular bunny, the official word from the DoD — which is a bit busy at the moment — is that they’re not sure.

“We don’t track individual wildlife unless there is a safety hazard to building occupants or the animal,” Gough said.

The Pentagon chicken, on the other hand, attracted national media attention after the Animal Welfare League of Arlington revealed that it had taken custody of the rogue poultry at the request of the DoD, after it was found wandering around a secure area outside of the building.

The chicken went viral on social media, now has its own t-shirt line, and even earned a Jimmy Fallon-sung ballad on the Tonight Show.

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The chicken that tried to sneak into the Pentagon (photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

A very bold and very lost chicken was “caught sneaking around the security area at the Pentagon” early Monday morning.

The adventurous bird was nabbed by Arlington animal control officers, who were called in to help the headquarters of the world’s most powerful military with its poultry problem.

More on what happened from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:

Apparently, the answer to “why did the chicken cross the road” is…. to get to the Pentagon?! Very early this morning, this chicken was caught sneaking around the security area at the Pentagon (we’re not kidding) and our officers were called to come pick her up. Sgt Ballena brought her safely to the shelter where she’ll stay until we find a new home for her! Now we need a name for her — suggestions welcomed!

Naturally, plenty of people had thoughts on social media about the military’s most wanted chicken and what it should be named.

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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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Morning Notes

Blue and Orange Line Changes Today — “There will be no rail service between Rosslyn and Pentagon stations due to the ongoing investigation into Tuesday’s derailment between Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations. Free shuttle buses will replace trains between Rosslyn, Arlington Cemetery, and Pentagon stations. Blue Line service will operate between Franconia-Springfield and Mt. Vernon Square stations only… Orange Line service will operate between Vienna and New Carrollton stations and Silver Line service will operate between Wiehle-Reston East and Largo Town Center stations, with single tracking between Clarendon and Foggy Bottom.” [WMATA]

Suspicious Object in Pentagon Parking Lot — From the Pentagon Force Protection Agency yesterday afternoon: “At approximately 6:30 a.m., a Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) Police unit on routine patrol in South parking when they observed a suspicious object. The area was immediately cordoned off, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic was blocked from the area. PFPA Hazardous Device Unit responded and the object was rendered safely at about 6:50 a.m. The all clear was given at 7:35 a.m… There is no threat to the Pentagon and surrounding area. The incident is under further investigation.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlingtonian Swims Around Manhattan — “What’s that popular phrase often given as the reason climbers attempt to scale Mount Everest: ‘Because it is there.’ That’s pretty much the same explanation Andie Nelson gave, in addition to being a new challenge, for successfully completing the 28.5-mile 20 Bridges Manhattan Swim around the famous New York City island-borough on Aug. 24. It was the first time the Arlington resident attempted the swim.” [Sun Gazette]

Pair Face Drug, Robbery Charges — “800 block of S. Frederick Street. At approximately 5:43 p.m. on October 10, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just occurred. Based upon information provided by dispatch and witnesses in the area, a lookout was broadcast and two of the three suspects were located and taken into custody without incident. The investigation determined that the three known suspects allegedly forced entry into the victim’s apartment and physically assaulted her before stealing two cell phones and fleeing the scene on foot. During a search of the two suspects incident to arrest, items consistent with drug paraphernalia were recovered.” [ACPD]

Clarendon Road Closure Today — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Wednesday 9am – 1pm: Temporary closure of EB Washington Blvd between N Kirkwood and Wilson Blvd for roadway infrastructure. Expect detour at Kirkwood to 10th St North, then to Wilson. WB Washington Blvd open but expect delays.” [Twitter]

Volunteer to Remove Trail Bumps — From Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail: “Tired of those bumps on the trail? Volunteer to help us fix them. Volunteer to fix the bumps near Memorial Bridge on 10/16.” [Twitter, Eventbrite]

Video Tour of Local Fire Station — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “Since COVID prevented us from opening up our fire stations to tours during fire prevention week, we hope our community enjoys this video tour of Fire Station 5 given by the members assigned there on C Shift.” [Twitter, YouTube]

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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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Morning Notes

Firefighters Recount 9/11 Horror — “Arlington County firefighter Matthew Herrera was racing to a call for an apartment fire in Rosslyn, Virginia, 20 years ago, when his crew was rerouted. Their new destination: the Pentagon, for a report of a plane down in the area. It was Sept. 11, 2001. Herrera, now a captain, struggled to get through piles of debris inside the building, right where the plane had hit, to fight the blaze. ‘The first time I fell, I got up real quick and I remember (thinking), ‘I hope I’m not stepping on somebody.’ And I knew that I probably was,’ Herrera told WTOP.” [WTOP]

More Recollections of Sept. 11 — “What they encountered was catastrophic, unprecedented and unforgettable. ‘There was just one piece of the plane I could see,’ recalls Scott, who today holds the rank of Captain II with Arlington Fire/EMS. ‘It was the letter C, from American Airlines.’ Along with countless other responders, Scott spent hours working to suppress the fire raging on the Pentagon’s west side.” [Arlington Magazine, WJLA, NBC 4]

Car Break-ins Around Arlington Ridge — “2300 block of S. Arlington Ridge Road / 1200 block of Oakcrest Road. At approximately 9:52 a.m. on September 3, police were dispatched to the report of multiple larcenies from auto. The investigation determined that between 10:30 p.m. on September 2 and 9:52 a.m. on September 3, the unknown suspect(s) entered approximately four vehicles and rummaged through them. A variety of tools and personal items were reported stolen from the victim vehicles.” [ACPD]

First Hurricane Dog Adopted at AWLA — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Over the weekend, the first of our Louisiana dogs was adopted! We think Milo is very happy with his new family . More of the dogs from Louisiana will be available in the coming days/weeks so keep an eye on our website!” [Twitter]

Yorktown Football Undefeated So Far — “When it come to his team’s execution on offense, Bruce Hanson is hard to please. The longtime head coach of the Yorktown Patriots has a 2-0 football team already this fall that has scored 19 and 43 points in each of those high-school contests. Yet Hanson isn’t satisfied with what he says is sloppy and uneven performances, including during Yorktown’s 43-17 blowout of visiting Wilson on Sept. 2.” [Sun Gazette]

A Capital Problem Along Route 50 — “@VaDOTNOVA: Please fix the capitalization error on this sign. Should read ’14th Street,’ not ’14Th Street.’ Has annoyed me for years. On WB Arlington Blvd (US 50) near the Marine Corps Memorial.” [Twitter]

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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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Morning Notes

Arlington’s Biggest House Numbers? — “In the early days of the pandemic, I went on a quixotic quest to walk every one of the 1,114 blocks in my Arlington, Virginia, ZIP code, cataloging the styles of the address numbers on every house along the way… I have kept an eye on the house numbers in Arlington ever since, and imagine my joy this spring when suddenly, on a street I biked down every week, a new set of enormous house numbers appeared.” [Slate, Twitter]

Stepped Up DUI Patrols Begin Today — “This Labor Day, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is participating in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over impaired driving awareness campaign, which runs from August 18th through September 6th, 2021. This campaign aims to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roadways through a two-pronged approach of education and enforcement.” [ACPD]

Fallen Pentagon Police Officer Laid to Rest — “A Brooklyn-born Pentagon cop who was stabbed to death while on duty in DC was hailed as a “warrior” and a hero at his funeral Monday… ‘He fought ’til the end,’ his NYPD sibling, Rodney Rubert, said during funeral services at St. Barbara Roman Catholic Church in Bushwick.” [New York Post]

Beyer Proposes Healthcare Provider Vax Mandate — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today announced the introduction of the Protecting Vulnerable Patients Act, which would require healthcare providers who see Medicare or Medicaid patients to be vaccinated following final FDA approval of a COVID vaccine.” [Press Release]

Arlington Hotels Still Hurting — “Hotel-occupancy rates improved in June but, overall, the first half of the year remained a bust for the Arlington hospitality industry. The occupancy rate of 44.7 percent in June was better than the cumulative 34.4-percent rate recorded over the first six months of the year, according to new data from Smith Travel research and Arlington Economic Development. But that 34.4-percent rate was anemic even compared to the weak first six months of 2020, when it stood at 37.3 percent.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Office Vacancy Rate Rising — “The Arlington office-vacancy rate continues to go in the wrong direction, according to new second-quarter data. The overall office-vacancy rate countywide was 19.4 percent for the quarter, according to figures reported by CoStar and Arlington Economic Development. That’s up from 18.5 percent in the first quarter and 16.6 percent a year ago.” [Sun Gazette]

Local Nonprofit Eyes Tysons Development — “The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is adding another project to its new Fairfax County pipeline, pitching a development in Tysons that could become the neighborhood’s first apartment building made up entirely of committed affordable units. The nonprofit hopes to build up to 175 new apartments on about 2 acres on Spring Hill Road near the Silver Line station of the same name, converting car dealership parking lots that are part of the massive Dominion Square development site.” [Washington Business Journal]

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