Charlottesville Breaking News

Street cred: West Main relaxes

West Main– from the infamous cop-hits-wheelchair man intersection to the one just before the once-controversial dusty Amtrak parking lot– was the site of the second annual Midtown Street Fair Saturday, September 10. There were thumb-wrestling contests sponsored by the ladies of CLAW (Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers), face painting, fake mustaches, a strong-man swing-the-hammer-ring-the-bell challenge, karaoke, live music, funny bicycles, a BBQ cook-off (Orzo won), and kids and families and local hipsters everywhere.

According to organizers, the 35 vendors on hand welcomed close to 4,000 people during the day long event, raising awareness of 'Midtown' as a restaurant and retail destination, and money for such charities as the FOCUS Flea Market, the Music Resource Center, and the Jefferson School rehabilitation project.

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W'boro spectacle: After sparks, Cline memorial sparkles

The installation of a dramatic memorial to 9/11 caused a spectacle of its own Friday afternoon after a support cable touched a live power line, sending up sparks and plunging several businesses in downtown Waynesboro into darkness.

"We're all a little bit shaken up," said Mark Cline, the Natural Bridge-based showman who planned the memorial. "We're just lucky that no one was touching the cable."

According to witnesses, the incident occurred around 1:45pm as a team was hoisting four soft plastic panels to cover one face of a former cold storage building. The idea was to create a representation of the twin towers of the World Trade Center with patriotic images of a flag and eagle in the background.

While power was restored in about an hour to the nearby Kroger grocery and other businesses along Arch Avenue, the fate of the memorial was uncertain at the original time of this posting. Cline, aka "Professor Cline," has been working on the project for a recently-assembled group called 9/11 Tribute.

The incident created a harrowing moment for Scott Balsley. A childhood friend of Cline's, he took a day off work– his birthday– to help raise the tribute. He and Cline were harnessed and hauling up panels at the roof's edge when wind caught a panel "like a parasail," says Balsley.

He says he saw the flash of electricity churning through one of the...

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Ravens Roost: Rock-climbing death deemed accidental

What may be Virginia's most beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway overlook was also the scene of one of its most tragic accidents, the June 15 rock-climbing death of Alabama resident Jonathan "Sully" Sullivan. The 20-year-old's fatal fall, under investigation for nearly three months, has finally been ruled accidental, according to the Park Ranger leading the investigation.

"We do not believe there was any intentional cause of death," says Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett, who oversees the Parkway for the National Park Service. "A mistake was made in the way the equipment was configured."

Perhaps that's not too surprising that foul play was a prime consideration, given the recent spate of homicides along the Parkway.

Barely a mile up the road on a glorious spring evening last year, Christina Floyd and Tim Davis were enjoying the sunset at Rock Point Overlook when Ralph Leon Jackson blasted them with a shotgun, sending Davis over the edge. The 27-year-old WNRN DJ died in the hospital a few days later.

A mile from there, In that same south-of-Humpback Rocks area, ...

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Kathryn's law: Harrington supports campus cop demotion

The days of campus police leading murder and rape investigations are coming to an end if the parents of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington have anything to say about it.

On November 16, the Virginia Crime Commission will hear testimony from the Harringtons and other victims in support of HB2490, also known as Kathryn's Law, which would require campus police departments to hand over such serious criminal investigations to local law enforcement agencies.

"I don't anticipate a fight," says Morgan's mother Gil Harrington, who visited the John Paul Jones Arena on Thursday, September 9 to speak with media about the proposed law. "It just makes sense."

The mother of the young woman whose case inspired the bill, Susan Russell, has also expressed hope that this year lawmakers will approve the measure. (It was passed over last year by the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee, which recommended it for review by the Crime Commission.)

Having called it "a bill for victims," Russell says her daughter, Kathryn Russell, was allegedly raped in an off-campus apartment, and the alleged assailant, a fellow UVA student, was never prosecuted or punished in any way by the school.

Russell has publicly criticized UVA for its handling of her daughter's case, and she's not the only one. Liz Seccuro ...

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9/11 reflections: 3,000 dead and freedom too

We lost the World Trade Center. We lost 3,000 people. Black people, white people, Asian people, Middle Eastern people. People we didn't even think were at risk.

My girlfriend called me to say that a plane had crashed into the Trade Center. "That's happened before at the Empire State Building," I replied. "It'll be fine."

It was another half hour before I turned on a TV and saw it was a passenger jet, not the crop duster I was expecting. I'm a lawyer, and I was just about to run out the door to court when my partner attorney told me a second jet hit the other tower, and in a split second it became crystal clear that it wasn't an accident.

I was still wrestling with the news as I ran in to court and sat down on the attorney bench listening to the cops in front of me talking about the Pentagon. I corrected them saying, "No, it wasn't the Pentagon; it was the World Trade Center." One of them turned around and said, "It was the Pentagon and the World Trade Center!"

My disbelief was growing by the second– maybe the biggest part of it being, "Why are we still sitting in here doing traffic tickets and whatnot like the world is still normal?" As I waited for my case to be called, I kept running back and forth into the clerk's office where they had a TV set up, and I saw the first big chunk collapse.

I finished my case and raced back to the office to turn on the TV again, and by the time I got there, the first tower had entirely coll...

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