Arlington, VA

The following was written by ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott, before he underwent successful hip surgery on Tuesday. Jay is doing well and about to start physical therapy. We expect him back on the Arlington beat in September.

I’ve been trying to write about the last four months or so for a few days now. It seems like a blur, right? Or maybe it just seems that way because staring at a blank screen for days has made everything blurry. Now then, where are my glasses?

Four months ago, toward the end of February, someone dear to me died. She suffered a long illness and I documented things along the way, trying to make sense of what was happening the best way I know how: through a lens.

One week after the funeral, Virginia was in lockdown because of Covid-19. I hit the ground running with an N95 mask and my cameras and with that same purpose, trying to make sense of what was going on by getting to work and documenting things as best as I can through my lens.

The running part has been difficult, let me tell you.

About 11 years ago, when I was living in Westover, I quit smoking. Awesome, right? I knew that I needed a lifestyle change and that regular exercise had to be a part of it. I never really cared for running and being so close to the Custis Trail I figured I would get a bike and see how it went. I instantly fell in love with the freedom and the speed and I rode all the time. I loved it. I even joined the Arlington-based cycling club Squadra Coppi and started racing.

In the fall of 2010 I started feeling pain in my hip. It got progressively worse and in 2011 I learned I had a condition called Femoral Acetabular Impingement. My femoral head and hip socket were shaped abnormally, limiting my range, and the repetitive motion of cycling likely exacerbated things tearing the tissue in my socket. I had arthroscopic surgery at Virginia Hospital Center in July 2011 to reshape my femoral head and acetabulum and pin down the soft tissue. After 9 months of recovery and physical therapy I was able to throw a leg over a bike again. I even raced one month before the first anniversary of my surgery. I finished 22nd, but on the lead lap. ūüėČ

Fast forward to the spring of 2018 and I started having that familiar intense pain in my left hip again. Between dealing with the Veterans Administration health care system and moving for a job, it wasn’t until December 2018 that I had another arthroscopic surgery to remove bone growths and repair tears in my hip socket. I was out completely for 8 weeks and wore a brace for 12 weeks, locking it straight when I slept.

The results of that surgery have not been so great. Despite two rounds of physical therapy I deal with daily, continuous pain in my hip. It’s gotten progressively worse, to the point where I am having trouble sleeping. In early February I learned that I would need another arthroscopic surgery or possibly a replacement. Then Covid-19 hit. A telehealth appointment in March ended with the VA telling me to “come back after coronavirus, maybe June?”

While covering 7 protests in 7 days at the beginning of June, I also saw a couple hip specialists and had a 3D CT scan. I’ve literally worked myself to the bone for you, Arlington! The consensus is that while I could probably have another arthroscopic surgery, the recovery is very long and at some point soon I’m going to need a replacement anyway. It might as well be now.

I’m scheduled for an anterior approach total hip replacement on July 7 with Dr. Gautam Siram at an outpatient surgery center in Bethesda, Md. I’ll be out completely for 6 weeks, and will be on some form of light duty after that for a number of weeks depending on how my recovery goes. He’s a Washingtonian “Top Doc” and came highly recommended, and accepts my insurance. Luck be a lady tonight.

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Planning to light off a few fireworks at home this Fourth of July weekend?

You’re not alone. Fireworks sales have skyrocketed this year as the usual public displays are cancelled or scaled back, and as people opt to stay away from the usual crowds.

While a deadly global pandemic is obviously cause for concern, socially distanced at-home fireworks can be dangerous too. Thousands of people report fireworks-related injuries each year and Arlington is no exception, although the types of fireworks allowed in Virginia are more tame than those permitted by some other states.

To help spread the word about fireworks safety, the Arlington County Fire Department held a demonstration at its training center near Shirlington yesterday. A video from the event, produced by ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott, is above.

More fireworks safety tips from the fire department’s website are below.

If you plan to use fireworks outside your home, follow these legal and safety tips:

Limitations & Prohibitions

  • Illegal Fireworks include: Fireworks that explode, emit flames or sparks to a distance greater than 12 feet, have a burning fuse less than one and one half (1.5) inches long with a burning rate of less than 4 seconds which emit projectiles;¬†Fireworks that explode in any form, such as firecrackers, mortars and cherry bombs; Fireworks that leave the ground or rise in the air (other than a fountain), such as bottle rockets, mortars or roman candles.
  • The sale of fireworks to minors (less than 18 years of age) is prohibited, unless a parent or legal guardian accompanies the minor.
  • Usage of¬†permissible fireworks¬†by minors (less than 18 years of age) must be under adult supervision.
  • Permissible fireworks¬†shall be used on private property with the permission of the property owner. Use of any fireworks on County, State of Federal property, such as streets, schools and parks, or any public right of way, is prohibited.
  • The penalty for possession, distribution, use or sale of illegal fireworks is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or 12 months in jail, or both, and confiscation of the fireworks. Parties are subject to additional charges for use of illegal fireworks, such as failure to obtain a¬†Fireworks Permit
  • Application¬†and not being a Virginia State licensed Pyro technician.

Fireworks Safety Tips

  • Keep a minimum clearance of 25 feet from people and buildings.
  • Wet down the area before shooting fireworks.
  • Follow the label directions carefully and use good sense.
  • Buy fireworks only from established retail outlets displaying a valid permit issued by the¬†Arlington County Fire Department Fire Prevention Office.
  • A responsible adult, whom is not under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, must supervise fireworks activities at all times.
  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks.
  • Use fireworks outdoors only, in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Light only one a time and then move away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a garden hose nearby or a bucket of water to place used fireworks in. Let them soak to ensure extinguishment before placing in regular trash for pickup.

File photo

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It started with a post on Nextdoor, which was then cross-posted on a popular local Facebook page.

“In need of a MAJOR favor from all who are willing!” wrote the poster, Columbia Pike resident Ashley Johnson. “I have a sweet sweet kid I met while volunteering at a homeless shelter 4 years ago. The shelter closed and his family was forced out but I still pick him up and try to give him good experiences.”

The post continued: “His 6th birthday is today and sadly I didn’t get to host a party this year BUT I just got a last minute reply from the fire station, and they’re willing to do a drive by and lead the way for a mini birthday parade… My family all lives out of state, but if anyone is free and willing to line up tomorrow around 5:15p, on 16th Rd. and Walter Reed, next to Pupatella, to jump in behind the fire truck when it passes to do the drive by Walter Reed Community Center, where we’ll be waiting, please let me know!”

Little did Johnson know, but Arlington residents and first responders would show up in a big way for 6-year-old Jessiah.

Friday night, several fire department vehicles, 16 Arlington County police cruisers and about 50 cars full of local residents paraded down the street, in perhaps the biggest traffic jam the Columbia Pike corridor has seen since the start of social distancing.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott was there to capture the moment.

The coronavirus outbreak may have curtailed traditional birthday parties, but it could not curtail kindness among neighbors and the big smile on Jessiah’s face.

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Morning Notes

VHC Has Supplies, Extra Beds¬†— “Virginia Hospital Center officials said not all of their 394 beds are full at the moment and that the hospital could expand above 400 in the case of a surge…¬†Melody Dickerson, chief nursing officer at VHC, said thanks to changes such as extending the life of personal protective equipment (PPE), under new CDC guidelines, they expect to have enough for at least next month, assuming shipments continue as expected.” [Washington Post]

Bayou Bakery Owner on CNBC — While working to give away food to those in need, Bayou Bakery is facing its own challenges. Chef and owner David Guas appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box Tuesday morning and discussed his decision to close and lay off all of his staff, while also working to apply for loans and eventually reopen. [CNBC]

Pile Driving Starting Soon at HQ2 Site — “Clark Construction Group, the lead HQ2 contractor, is planning to start a particularly noisy bit of work this week… It does have a solution, of sorts, for those nonessential workers who are sheltering in place. ‘They have provided us with ear plugs to help us deal with the noise, knowing that many of you are working from home,’ Aura management wrote.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Grocery Store Changes — Harris Teeter and Giant stores will be limiting the number of shoppers in their stores, in the interest of social distancing. Giant is also implementing one-way aisles. [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

Beyer Wants Temperature Checks at Airports — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today wrote to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf urging the adoption of stricter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at American airports… such as enforcing social distancing, implementing temperature checks for travelers, providing guidance on how to self-quarantine for exiting travelers, and protective equipment for staff.” [Press Release]

‘Virus Vigilantes’ on the Lookout — ARLnow has been getting a deluge of emails, tips and tweets from locals concerned about other people not maintaining social distancing. Surreptitious photos of teens on sidewalks, construction workers at jobs sites, and even unsuspecting people in parks have been sent our way. It’s apparently part of a national trend of “virus vigilantism,” as people take it upon themselves to enforce health guidelines.

Glebe Elementary Choir Performs Online — Barrett Elementary¬†got a shout out from Sir Elton himself for its staff dance video, but Barrett is not the only Arlington school creating music videos. Glebe Elementary made its own video recently, featuring the school’s fifth grade choir together performing “We Want to Sing” from their homes. [YouTube]

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Virginia schools may be closed for the rest of the academic year, but Barrett Elementary staff members haven’t gone anywhere.

That’s the message from a new music video uploaded to YouTube last night, featuring teachers dancing in their homes and yards to a cover of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”

“Check out this amazing video that our music teacher put together to bring some smiles to our students and their families,”¬†Marissa Mulholland, a special education teacher at the school, told ARLnow. “It was so fun to be a part of this video… almost like music therapy for us teachers!”

Arlington’s public schools are still educating students via online distance learning, though curriculums have been pared back and standardized tests cancelled.

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Nicklas Backstrom is loving dad life in Arlington.

Last month Backstrom signed a new five-year, $46 million contract to remain with the Washington Capitals. In addition to being the second all-time scorer for the Caps and one of hockey’s top players, the 32-year-old Swede and father of two is an Arlington resident.

A video from the Caps’ “Beyond Hockey” series was recently posted on YouTube and shows Backstrom at home in his red brick, north Arlington house. He spoke highly of the neighborhood.

“We have lived here for 10 years, actually — or I have lived here for 10 years, and Liza has lived here for 7 or 8,” he said, referring to his¬†fianc√©e.

“We love it around here, on typical days we usually just — kids go to school until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and then keep them activated and run around,” he said. “That’s when they get the best sleep too.”

Backstrom purchased the home, near the Fairfax County border, for $2 million in 2010.

In the video, he also reveals that Liza is pregnant with the family’s third child.¬†For her part, Liza says the family “has a lot of good neighbors.”

Backstrom is not the only Arlingtonian on the team to talk up the county on video. In October, Caps winger and Bash Boxing co-owner Tom Wilson, who signed his own $31 million contract extension in 2018, appeared in the Beyond Hockey series and spent much of the video driving around Arlington.

“The offseason always flies by, but when you drive in and Arlington’s buzzing you realize how much you’ve missed it here,” Wilson said. “It’s a great feeling to have a place like that that you’re fortunate enough to come back to every year. There’s lots of stuff to do.”

The Caps may play at Capital One arena in D.C., but the team’s offices and its practices are held at MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.

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The old warehouses that once stood along S. Eads Street, between 12th and 15th streets, are no more.

The buildings have been torn down over the course of the past month to make way for the first half of¬†Amazon’s permanent HQ2, which is expected to open in 2023.

A Reddit user who lives near the site captured a unique, bird’s-eye view of the demolition, posting a minute-and-a-half video showing the warehouses being methodically leveled over time.

The video was shot on a GoPro in timelapse mode, the user said.

“Hopefully you signed like a 10 year price lock lease because your rent is probably going to skyrocket,” another user said in the comments.

Demolition for the Amazon invasion has started in Arlington – View from my apartment from nova

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For most of the year, a stretch of Columbia Pike on the western end of Arlington County will be reduced to one lane in each direction.

During the extended closure, necessitated by utility work, drivers can expect significant delays during rush hour. Another impact: on left turns in the construction zone.

Following¬†criticism of county officials for insufficient communication about the closure, Arlington’s television arm has released a video detailing the closure and the detours in place to move traffic around it.

After construction concludes, the video notes, the affected portion of Columbia Pike will have wider sidewalks and will no longer have overhead utility lines.

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With snowflakes almost starting to fly, now might be a good time to provide a helpful tip for one way to avoid walking in the elements.

After much anticipation, the new Ballston Quarter pedestrian bridge opened in November. The snazzy, lighted bridge over Wilson Blvd links the second floor of the Ballston Quarter mall with the office complex and Metro station across the street, allowing people to get from one place to the other in climate-controlled comfort.

There’s no direct access from the Metro station to the office building, which means a brief walk outdoors. Also, it can be a little tricky to find on the first try. But don’t worry — we have a quick video guide on how to use the pedestrian bridge to get from the station to the mall.

Video by Jay Westcott 

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ABC’s Good Morning America aired a live segment from Abingdon Elementary in Fairlington Wednesday morning.

The five-minute segment, hosted by meteorologist Ginger Zee, highlighted a donation Amazon made to the nonprofit Rosie Riveters STEM program for girls.

More from the GMA website:

…there are limitations to what the nonprofit can do in terms of free programming for girls without additional funding and resources. The cost of computers, batteries for robots, magnets and more of the supplies required to bring these inventive STEM projects to life add up quickly. In Arlington, the group said their waitlist is approximately 300 girls long.

To celebrate the season of giving, Amazon surprised the nonprofit live on “Good Morning America” by fulfilling their entire wish list with these essential supplies – computers, printers, batteries, magnets and much more — all to continue their mission.

Amazon, which is seeking approval for the first 2.1 million square foot phase of its permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City this weekend, has been particularly active in Arlington recently. The company made a large donation of “wish list” items to local affordable housing provider AHC Inc. earlier this week, while its Amazon Web Services arm has been helping to teach students at Drew Elementary coding this week for Computer Science Education Week.

More on the Abingdon broadcast via social media:

https://www.facebook.com/AbingdonElementaryPTA/photos/a.576958229028424/2740930249297867/?type=3&theater

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A woman who was struck by a dump truck in Rosslyn a year ago, suffering serious injuries and ultimately a leg amputation, is reflecting on her recovery.

Helen Harris was honored at George Washington University Hospital’s 8th annual Trauma Survivors Day earlier this week. Though now able to walk with a prosthetic, Harris is still “on a long road to recovery,” NBC 4 reported.

“I will carry it for the rest of my life,” Harris told NBC 4. “It’s an ongoing struggle, every day gets a little bit better but it’s full of ups and downs.”

Harris was run over by the dump truck on Lee Highway in Rosslyn last December, after pushing her daughter — who was in a stroller — out of the way of the truck while crossing the street.

The truck’s driver, identified at the time as 63-year-old John Washington of Silver Spring, was charged with reckless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk after the crash. The reckless driving charge was dropped and in March he was found guilty on the failure to yield charge, paying a $100 fine and avoiding any jail time, according to court records.

Screen shot (bottom) via NBC 4

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