We won’t take their lives or their stories for granted

Opinion 

I went home Wednesday night and finished working on the fence in our backyard.

We installed a new gate to a side yard. Our two goats will enjoy this new large space, and I’ll enjoy the fact that they will eat all the unwanted foliage there.

It was simply just another evening at home I shared with my wife and our pets after another long day at work.

These evenings are ones we may sometimes take for granted.

That morning journalists Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, were shot and killed on live TV while interviewing a local chamber of commerce president, who was also shot and survived. The story they were covering was not one of violent crime, or digging up secrets of a mob boss, or to uncover political wrongdoing.

A celebration was underway for a dam built 60 years ago that created Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake. Parker and Ward went to learn about all of the fun events and activities planned for the anniversary, and went to bring home that community news story to their audience.

It’s a story that us reporters, and a service that we as readers may take for granted.

We journalists cover our communities with pride every day. Our business, the way we do our jobs, and the rules of traditional news writing as we knew them 20 years ago have all changed. They will continue to change as new digital storytelling tools emerge and, most importantly, readers continue to shift how they get their news and how much news content they demand.

As journalists, we are involved in this community in ways many people are not, or simply can’t be due to work and family commitments. We are here during the day reporting on our community while the majority of our readers leave the area for work in Washington, D.C.

We are the ones that are asked why police were “on my street last night.” or “what’s going on in my child’s school,” or “what am I really getting in exchange for the taxes I’m paying?”

In turn, we are privileged to go out and and bring home the answers to these and other questions. We get to explain to our readers what’s going on in their communities and why it matters to them.

Anymore, there are few others in our community that do what we do. But we’re glad there’s still a handful of us. Every community needs more reporters.

If our readers didn’t have to work and had more free time, maybe they would go out and do what we do. 

The job is not easy. It’s time-consuming. It’s not cheap. It doesn’t require the highest degree awarded by the most prestigious journalism school in the nation.

It does require dedication, commitment, and a true understanding of the community that we serve. It is work that should not be taken for granted.

It’s taken me a few days to write these words, and to try to wrap my head around the tragic events of this week. I tried to let my emotions subside and time pass before I took to my bully pulpit.

Newspapers, local news websites, and local TV stations are not the sole source for community information any longer. Social media is now an indispensable method of spreading news and photos, and for telling stories.

Not a day goes by that we, the reporters, don’t look to social media to find out what conversations are being had in the communities we cover. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a TV news show that isn’t showing an image of a Facebook page or Twitter comment to help tell the story.

Not all information posted to social media is accurate. We saw that Wednesday when incorrect reports surfaced of Virginia State Police pursuing Parker and Ward’s killer on Interstate 64 near Charlottesville.

As long as we’re around — as long as our readers find value in our reporting and local businesses and organizations find value in marketing to our readers — we’ll do our best to report the news timely fairly, accurately, and with a focus on how it impacts our community.

It’s the same thing Parker, and Ward would be doing today had they not been gunned down.

Ahead, the debate over how to best help those with mental illness, and what to do about the increasing number of high-profile shootings will rage on. After Virginia Tech, the state is no stranger to these conversations.

For now let’s remember two young, much-loved journalists who had their whole lives ahead of them. Whom, for a brief time, were given the honor and privilege of covering their hometowns — the same privilege that I have been given.

And let us take nothing for granted.

-Uriah Kiser is the founder and publisher of PotomacLocal.com.

Call to Action: Volunteers needed for Public Lands Day at Leesylvania State Park

News

Good morning Prince William – Volunteers are needed for Public Lands Day at Leesylvania State Park on Saturday September 26th – 9:30am-1pm.  Tasks include collecting native tree seeds that will go to local nurseries that grow trees for reforesting efforts across the region.  You need close-toed shoes and sharp eyes but they will provide all tools, water, supplies and lunch.  You don’t want to miss this great event.  You can sign up at: Potomac.org or call (703) 583-6904 for more info.

Historic Manassas, Inc. has an urgent need for volunteers at the Bands, Brews & BBQ on September 12thfor the afternoon, 2-6pm shift!  This is a super fun community event in Old Town Manassas.  You must be age 21+ and the fun jobs include checking IDs, pouring beer, ticket taking, children’s games and of course set-up or take down. Please call Erin at (703) 361-6599 to learn more.  

It’s almost fall – Walk to End Alzheimer’s is gearing up for the Manassas walk on October 17th. Walkers and volunteers needed for this fun event so please visit:www.alzheimersassociationnca.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer.   To learn more.

Literacy Volunteers of America is gearing up for their next tutor training on September 19th and October 3rd.  No experience needed just come and share your time to greatly improve the life of another.  Please visit their website at: lvapw.org to learn more.

SERVE in Manassas needs volunteer’s weekdays and Saturday mornings at their food pantry.  Tasks include processing families, stocking shelves, accepting food donations and preparing food packages.  Volunteers must be 16+ yrs. old.  They would love Spanish speakers but mostly just you!  Please email Jan to learn more at: jhawkins@nvfs.org

The ARC cordially invites you to their Respite for the Soul event for any caregiver to a person with disabilities on Saturday September 26th at the McCoart Government Building.  It’s just $10 and includes a box lunch.  Please email: jrussell@arcgpw.org for more info.

Project Mend A House has two super activities this fall for you.  First of all gather your friends and families to build a Popsicle House.  Its super fun to use your creativity to build the house.  You can enter the contest purchase the supplies for just $25.  You need to submit your house by October 14thand it will be judged by the fans at the Taste of the Town fundraiser on October 28th.  You don’t want to miss either of these two events.  Please call (703) 792-7663 to learn more.

House of Mercy is hosting their 2015 Campaign to End Hunger on Saturday October 17th.  Volunteers are needed to work a 2 hour shift and contribute $20.  This fee covers the cost of the food ingredients for 150,000 meals.  Please call (703) 659-1636 or via email at: help@houseofmercyva.org to learn more

Prince William Bar Association for sponsoring the Wills for Veterans program. The Bar Association is looking for vets needing Wills, Power of Attorneys and Medical Directives to come to their information sessions to receive this free service.  The first session is September 19th, the second session is October 3rd and then you’ll receive your docs on October 24th.  Please call Barbara at (703) 792-7175 to register and receive all the specifics of this super project sponsored by the Bar Association.

And speaking of vets please mark your calendars to attend the Freedom Museum’s 1940’s HangerDance on Saturday October 10th at the Manassas Airport. They will have music, dinner, dancing, and fabulous raffle items all to support this wonderful museum.  Please visit their website to learn more and buy your tickets at: freedommuseum.org

Brain Injury Services is looking for a volunteer to teach basic email and web searching skills to a woman in Fairfax City.  You can make a world of difference for just a couple of visits a month to bettering the lives of brain injury survivors. They also could use help in the office which is very flexible as well.  Please contact Michelle: mthyen@braininjuryservices.org or by phone: 703-451-8881, ext. 232.

The 2015 American Heart Association Walk is November 7th in DC.  Volunteers are needed as course marshals, set-up, and other assistance. Volunteers must be 16yrs old or be accompanied by an adult.  Please visit their website to sign –up at: greaterwashingtonheartwalk.org.

If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William.  Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 1, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like.  Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 0, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 3.  Please visit our newly re-vamped website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org.  Thanks so much for all you do in our community. 

Call to Action is a column written by Volunteer Prince William Director Mary Foley.

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Week 1 High School Football Scores for August 28, 2015

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Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)
Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)
Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)
Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)
Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)
Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)
Stonewall Jackason at Woodbridge (Photo: Mark Lomax)

Scoreboard 

Mountain View vs. Freedom 

Battlefield vs. Hylton 

Patriot vs. Stafford 

Park View (Sterling) vs. Manassas Park

Brooke Point at Colonial Forge

North Stafford vs. Osbourn 

Gar-Field vs. Potomac 

Forest Park vs. Osbourn Park

Woodbridge vs. Stonewall Jackson

Woodbridge 17, Stonewall 13

All scores provided by schools’ Twitter accounts or crowdsourced via Twitter. Don’t see your school on the board? Ask your school to Tweet final varsity football game scores to @PotomacLocal.

Stafford High School classes delayed 1 week

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stafford high school

Stafford High School will delay its opening by two weeks. The school was unable obtain a permit to open its doors for the first time.

More in a press release from Stafford County Public Schools: 

As of 4 p.m. today, the general contractor (Hess) has failed to meet requirements for temporary occupancy of part or all of the new Stafford High School and the planned move of the administrative offices have been delayed until early next week. Stafford County’s Code Compliance Office has extended every effort in support of this project and is committed to continue to do so until the contractor meets the requirements for temporary occupancy.

In order to provide a positive educational experience for our students in a finished building, we have determined to delay the start of school for Stafford High School students until Monday, September 14, 2015. Instructional plans are being explored in the event that students must make up the time missed during this first week.  These options may include making up the time during the second semester, requesting a waiver from the Commonwealth and/or providing on-line opportunities for classroom instruction.

Teachers and staff will have access to the building as soon as temporary occupancy is achieved.  Teachers will work from home during teacher work week (August 31-September 4) until access to the building is possible. If the division staff are able to accelerate the moves to earlier dates, it will be done and information on any changes will be sent out to the community using a variety of media.

The Freshman Orientation and Open House scheduled for Thursday, September 3, will now be held on Thursday, September 10, 2015.  The freshman orientation will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The Open House will be held on September 10 with Seniors and Juniors arriving from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and with Sophomores and Freshmen arriving from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  Freshmen who attend the orientation earlier in the day are not expected to attend the open house that evening as they will have received the information needed. Both of these events on September 10 will be dependent upon access to the spaces within the school.

Further details regarding instruction during the first week of school will be shared next week.

Manassas teen aids ISIS, jailed

News

A Manassas teen was sentenced to 11 years in jail today, after assisting the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS).

Ali Shukri Amin, the 17-year old Manassas boy, was sentenced after being convicted of conspiring to provide support and resources to ISIS, according to a U.S. Justice Department release.

“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL. The Department of Justice will continue to pursue those that travel to fight against the United States and our allies, as well as those individuals that recruit others on behalf of ISIL in the homeland,” said U.S. Eastern District of Virginia Attorney Dana Boente, according to a release.

Boente stated that ISIS has been using social media to recruit individuals and spread their message.

Amin was a student at Osborne Park High School in Manassas.

According to Prince William County Police Department Chief Steve Hudson, school staff had said Amin had exhibited some warning signs with suspicious behavior.

“Observations made by school staff and subsequent follow-up by the School Resource Officer were some of the earlier indicators of suspicious behavior regarding this individual,” stated Hudson in a release.

Amin pled guilty to all charges on June 11, according to a release.

More from a U.S. Justice Department release:

According to court documents, Amin admitted to using Twitter to provide advice and encouragement to ISIL and its supporters.  Amin, who used the Twitter handle @Amreekiwitness, provided instruction on how to use Bitcoin, a virtual currency, to mask the provision of funds to ISIL, as well as facilitation to ISIL supporters seeking to travel to Syria to fight with ISIL.  Additionally, Amin admitted that he facilitated travel for Reza Niknejad, an 18-year-old Prince William County resident who traveled to Syria to join ISIL in January 2015.  Niknejad was charged on June 10, 2015, in the Eastern District of Virginia with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to provide material support to ISIL, and conspiring to kill and injure people abroad.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton presided over the case and delivered the sentence. This case was investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Ben’Ary and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline H. Friedman prosecuted the case. Substantial assistance was provided by Trial Attorney Stephen Sewell of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Virginia eyes Tropical Storm Erika

News

S115331tormy weather may be ahead for Virginia.

According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Tropical Storm Erika may become a hurricane by Monday, and has the potential to hit Virginia.

The storm is currently approaching the Dominican Republic, and is still impacting the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, stated the National Weather Service.

Tropical Storm Erika currently has wind speeds of 50 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

According to the track, released by the National Weather Service, the storm could impact Virginia by Monday.

Work on massive Woodbridge church starts, again

News

Work on Harvest Life Changers Church in Woodbridge is underway once again.

Cranes can be seen lifting steel beams into the place at the church site on a hill near the intersection of Route 1 and Neabsco Mills Road. The church’s website notes construction of the new worship center resumed in July as concrete for the foundation was poured.

Work on the project began five years ago when the Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved new signage for the church. Retaining walls were built at the site to support the construction and parking lots.

There had been little work taking place at the site in recent years. No one at the church was available to speak with Potomac Local about the construction.

Girl, 12, sexually assaulted at Manassas Walmart

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Prince William police are searching for a man, following a sexual assault of a minor at a Manassas Walmart.

According to Prince William police, officers were called to the Walmart on 8386 Sudley Road in Manassas on the morning of August 22.

The victim – a 12 year old Manassas girl – told police that on the evening of August 21, she was shopping at the Walmart, when she was approached by an unknown individual, stated Prince William police.

During the incident, the individual inappropriately touched the victim over her clothing, according to Prince William police.

No one was injured.

The Prince William police are looking for the individual that is described as a Hispanic male, between 30 and 40 years old with a thin build, short black hair, and a goatee. He was last seen in surveillance footage wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and black and white Nike sneakers, stated Prince William police.

Landfill not beholden to Dumfries without deal

News

Dumfries officials weighed in on a plan to close a controversial landfill in the town.

The Potomac Landfill is full of building materials and is easily visible from Interstate 95. It’s located squarely inside the Town of Dumfries and has been a magnet for odor complaints filed by town residents.

The dumping ground is also on a state watch list because it piled debris, such as used wood, drywall, and concrete above a maximum legal height of 195 feet.

The Potomac Landfill is now rectifying the situation reducing the size of the debris pile and spreading it around the site. The landfill also sells the old materials to recycling firms that remake it into new construction material.

Landfill president Phillip Peet proposed a new agreement to the town that would allow the landfill to continue piling debris up to 250 feet high, effectively stopping the height remediation efforts mandated by the state. In exchange, the town would then receive up to $3 million over the next 20 years from the landfill — a portion of the profits made from the landfill recycling old materials.

Peet would also close the landfill in 20 years and build a park and playing fields on the reclaimed site. If Dumfries officials agree, Peet said the state height requirement gets tossed out.

“If there is an agreement for vertical expansion, we vacate the consent order. “If there is no agreement, materials will continue to be removed, and the landfill will expand laterally,” said Peet.

If the town does not accept the proposal, there would be no guarantee the facility would close.

“I’m concerned if we do nothing the Potomac Landfill doesn’t have a closure date it can remain opened, and they can go back into the ground and re-mine to get materials that have value,” said Dumfries Mayor Gerald “Jerry” Foreman.

The landfill has been known to disturb older portions of the landfill to go back in search of materials that can be sold for cash and recycled, added Foreman.

Dumfries Councilwoman Helen Reynolds scorned Peet for presenting the proposal before the company reached compliance with the state order to reduce the height of the debris pile.

“They put these restrictions on the landfill, and before we can talk about moving forward, up, down, or sideways with the landfill. You all had to correct those violations,” said Reynolds.

The company is well on its way to reducing the height of the pile agreement or no agreement, said Peet. The landfill met its first milestone in 2013, and will meet another one this year in the effort to bring down the trash pile, he said.

Peet said the landfill’s parent company Potomac Recycling, which he oversees, aims to run the landfill until it closes. However, if an agreement is not struck between it and the town, Peet said the company could sell the junkyard to another party is if the opportunity presented itself.

Peet said he hoped to strike a deal with the town by late summer or early fall. Foreman and Councilwoman Gwen Washington urge more public participation in the matter before a decision is made. Peet is anxious to solidify a deal soon due to the upcoming closure of a much taller debris landfill in Lorton. Business at his site will pick up once the Lorton landfill closes, he said.

“I don’t think it’s a decision that seven people are capable of making,” said Washington.

“The seven of us will have to make this decision, and that’s the point,” said Vice-Mayor Willie J. Toney.

The town scheduled two public workshops on the matter earlier this summer, were plans, maps, and detailed charts were presented outlining the planned closure of the landfill. Another public meeting on the matter is scheduled September 15 and is open to the public.

How Marines can fish free at Quantico Classic tournament

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quantico town

The 2nd Annual Quantico Classic Fishing Tournament starts tomorrow.

The 2015 Quantico Classic Fishing Tournament is a 30-hour fishing tournament hosted by the Town of Quantico starting on Friday, August 28 at noon and ending on Saturday August 29 at 5 p.m.

The 2015 Quantico Classic Fishing Tournament is open to anglers of all ages, skill levels and physical ability.

To increase participation the Town of Quantico is offering a 50% discount on all registration fees until 2 p.m. Friday.

Also, any active duty Marine (or service member) who has the rank of Sgt (E-5) or below can fish for free.

All participants must complete and submit a registration and hold harmless form before being added to the official participants list

The tournament rules and registration form can be found at townofquantico.org.

Any questions or comments related to this or any other town sponsored event should be directed to Mayor Kevin Brown at 571-334-3432 or mayor@townofquantico.org.

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