Nov 5, 2001
On October 15, as soon as the Senate office of Tom Daschle confirmed they had a letter containing anthrax, they closed their office. Upon hearing the news, the House of Representatives shut down the next day. The House did not even have a recorded incident of anthrax before they took the precautions. Then Congress closed all office buildings, arranging for testing of both buildings and their staff.
On October 16, the first two postal workers at the facility through which the letter was sorted, actually fell sick with symptoms which turned into anthrax. Two days later, the U.S. Postal Service tested the sorting machines, which did have traces of anthrax. But it still did not close the building. It was not until after a postal worker died on October 21 and another died the next day, that the Postal Service finally shut down that facility. Since then, tests have shown that postal facilities linked to the New Jersey and the Washington postal facilities have tested positive for anthrax. One was nearby, in a Maryland suburb of Washington but one was far away in Kansas City, Missouri, where everyone is waiting on anthrax tests administered on November 2.
The U.S. Congress is so concerned that it shuts down before anyone even gets sick, while the Postal Service is still running facilities while testing shows anthrax contamination and at least two workers have died.
The Congress may have been looking out only for its own skin, yet they did what makes sense to do during an attack which has claimed innocent victims. They took precautions. Their actions should stand as an example of what should be done everywhere.
Postal workers want answers
While postal workers everywhere look for answers, reassurance, test results, while some even have started taking antibiotics as a precaution, they are expected to continue to work throughout the danger.
Anthrax spores were found in four sorting machines in New York City’s largest mail-distribution center. Were the postal workers told not to come to work until the place was de-contaminated, the way they are doing at some Congressional office buildings in Washington? No, they were expected to come into work.
The president of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, William Smith, has been one of the few to say publicly that it is dangerous to go to work. His bosses disagree, but, as Mr. Smith puts it, “They have to close it up to clean it up.”
The Postal Service bosses are bosses like everywhere else – they only do something serious AFTER workers are victims. As of this writing, only the Brentwood facility in Washington D.C. from which two workers died, is closed. Thousands of other postal workers remain at risk.