Tuesday, September 27, 2005


The events of September 11, 2001 shook the United States to its very core, but the anthrax attacks just one week later really scared us...
On Tuesday, October 16, 2001, Norma Wallace reported for work at the postal office in Trenton, New Jersey. She wasn't feeling well and thought it was a mild case of the flu. However, just three days later, Norma was in the hospital fighting for her life. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC another postal worker, Leroy Richmond, was suffering with nearly identical symptoms. Leroy had also checked himself into a local hospital.

The news from the doctors was terrifying. Both of the postal workers were suffering from an acute infectious disease caused by the bacterium known as anthrax - most commonly found in livestock. In humans, the disease can be spread in three ways: by skin contact, through ingestion or by inhaling the spores. Inhalation anthrax is fatal 95 percent of the time - and it was those dreadful odds that confronted Leroy Richmond and Norma Wallace. Miraculously Leroy and Norman survived but anthrax would eventually strike sixteen other victims and claim five lives.

America came face to face with the specter of bio-terrorism in the days following September 11th. Letters laced with anthrax were sent to NBC News and the New York Post. They had been mailed from Trenton, New Jersey. Two weeks later, anthrax claimed its first victim: 63-year-old Robert Stevens, a photo editor for a tabloid newspaper in Florida called The Sun. The exposure was traced to an opened letter. Initially the investigation targeted Osama bin Laden; however, FBI profilers have concluded that the attacks were probably not the work of international terrorists - but rather, someone right here at home.

As of September 2005, the investigation into the case seems to have gone cold. Authorities have traveled to four different continents, interviewed more than 8,000 individuals, and have issued over 5,000 subpoenas. The number of FBI agents assigned to the case is now 21, ten less than a year ago. The number of postal inspectors investigating the case is nine.

The FBI and postal inspectors are in the process of preparing an internal report reviewing the history of the investigation. The report will include a list of "persons of interests" and the latest on the scientific tests used on the anthrax material. Investigators still have not determined the lab used to make the anthrax.

The Justice Department has named no suspects in the anthrax case. Although Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Dr. Steven Hatfil a "person of interest" in a press conference, no charges have been brought against him. Hatfill, a virologist, has vehemently denied he had connections to or anything to do with the deadly anthrax mailings, and has sued the U.S. Government over the insinuation.

The letters contained at least two grades of anthrax material, but all of the anthrax was the same strain. Known as the Ames strain, it was first researched at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Ames strain was then distributed to at least fifteen bio-research labs within the US and six overseas.

Radiocarbon dating conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

in June 2002 established that the anthrax was cultured no more than two years before the mailings.

In August 2002, investigators found anthrax in a Princeton, New Jersey city street mailbox, which was likely used to mail some or all of the letters. All mailboxes that could

have been us

ed to mail the letters (over 300) were tested for anthrax, with only one positive result. The mailbox was located at 10 Nassau Street, which adjoins the Princeton University campus.

The letters addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy have the return address:

  • 4th Grade
  • Greendale School
  • Franklin Park NJ 08852

The address is fictitious. Franklin Park, New Jersey exists, but the Zip code 08852 is for nearby Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. There is no Greendale School in New Jersey.

Authorities believe the spores probably came from one of two labs, although they are still open to further research. Meanwhile, with no assurance the elusive killer or killers have ties to either of these facilities, the manhunt continues at home and abroad. A $2.5 million reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and convictions of the person or persons behind the anthrax attacks.

A Timeline of The Attacks

  • September 11, 2001 attacks
  • September 17 or September 18: Attack #1 - Five anthrax letters are mailed (Trenton, New Jersey postmark dated September 18), targeting news media: ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all in New York City; and American Media, Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, which publishes supermarket tabloids. (Only the New York Post and NBC News letters were actually found; the existence of the other three letters is inferred from the pattern of infection).
  • September 22-October 1: Nine people contract anthrax, but are not diagnosed.
  • October 2: Robert Stevens, a photo editor at the American Media Inc. tabloid Sun in Boca Raton, Florida, is admitted to the John F. Kennedy Hospital emergency room in Atlantis, Florida presenting disorientation, a high fever, vomiting, and inability to speak.
  • October 4: Robert Stevens is publicly confirmed to have inhalation anthrax. United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson downplays terrorism as a possible cause, suggesting Stevens may have contracted anthrax by drinking water from a stream.
  • October 5: Robert Stevens, 63, dies, the first known case of inhalation anthrax in the U.S. since 1976.
  • October 7: Anthrax is found on Robert Stevens's computer keyboard. The American Media building is closed and workers are tested for exposure.
  • October 6-October 9: Attack #2 - Some time within this range, two more anthrax letters are mailed (Trenton, New Jersey postmark dated October 9), targeting Senators Daschle and Leahy. (Monday, October 8, was Columbus Day, hence no mail pickup).
  • October 12: The (already opened) anthrax letter to NBC News is found, the first direct evidence of bioterrorism as the cause of the anthrax outbreak.
  • October 15: The letter to Senator Daschle is opened. It is quickly confirmed to be anthrax.
  • October 17: 31 Capitol workers (five Capitol police officers, three Russ Feingold staffers, 23 Tom Daschle staffers), test positive for the presence of anthrax (presumably via nasal swabs, etc.). Feingold's office is behind Daschle's in the Hart Senate Building. Anthrax spores are found in a Senate mailroom located in an office building near the Capitol. There are rumors that anthrax was found in the ventilation system of the Capitol building itself. The House of Representatives announces it will adjourn in response to the threat.
  • October 19: The unopened New York Post anthrax letter is found.
  • October 22: Federal officials announce that two D.C. area United States Postal Service workers have died from what appears to be pulmonary anthrax contracted from handling mail.
  • October 23: It is confirmed that the two postal handlers died of pulmonary anthrax. The men are Joseph P. Curseen, 47, and Thomas L. Morris Jr., 55.
  • October 25: David Hose, who works at the State Department mail facility, is hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. The source is the Leahy letter, which was routed to the State Department in error.
  • October 29: Kathy Nguyen, a New York City hospital worker, is hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. The source of the anthrax is unknown.
  • October 31: Kathy Nguyen, 61, dies.
  • November 16: The Leahy anthrax letter is found in the impounded Senate mail.
  • November 20: Ottilie Lundgren, of Oxford, Connecticut, is diagnosed with inhalation anthrax. The source was most likely contaminated mail, although no anthrax was detected in her home.
  • November 21: Ottilie Lundgren, 94, dies, the fifth and final person to die as a result of the mailings.
  • December 5: The Leahy letter is opened at the American bio-facility USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, Maryland.
  • December 16: DNA testing of the anthrax matches the Ames strain at USAMRIID.

Timeline of Related Events

· August 11, 2002: Dr. Steven Hatfill holds an outdoor press conference in Alexandria, Virginia and declares his innocence and noninvolvement in the anthrax attacks.

· December 14, 2002: The U.S. Post

al Service begins to decontaminate the Brentwood mail facility 14 months after it was closed.

· May 11, 2003: Ponds on the north side of Catoctin Mountain, near Gambrill Park Road and Tower Road in Frederick, Maryland, are under investigation by the FBI, in connec

tion with the 2001 anthrax attacks. Divers reportedly retrieved a "clear box" with holes that could accommodate protective biological safety gloves, as well as vials wrapped in plastic from a pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest. A new theory has been developed suggesting how a criminal could have packed anthrax spores into envelopes without harming himself.

· June 9, 2003: The FBI begins to drai

n the Frederick, Maryland pond.

· June 28, 2003: The FBI finishes its investigation of the pond in Frederick, Maryland. Evidence found in the pond includes a bicycle, some logs, a street sign, coins, fishing lures, and a handgun. The FBI takes soil samples from the bottom of the pond for testing. No anthrax is found.

· October 21, 2003: It is anno

unced that decontamination of the Hamilton, NJ post office should begin this week.

· December 22, 2003: The Brentwood post office reopens, 26 months after the anthrax attacks.

· March 14, 2005: The Hamilton, NJ post office reopens, 41 months after the anthrax attacks.

The search for those behind the attacks goes on and all we can really do is to thank God that the attacks do not continue and that they were not even greater tha they were.There are some really strange and dangerous people out there and one never knows. Just another reason to keep an open mind and to keep walking in this big Weird World of ours. Just be watchful!

I’m Average Joe

email: OurWeirdWorld@gmail.com

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