- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

The District’s central mail-processing center was renamed yesterday in honor of two employees who died after handling anthrax-laced letters headed to Capitol Hill.

Hundreds of postal workers and their families gathered at the newly named Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. Processing and Distribution Center for the dedication and reception.

For many, it was their first time at the sprawling building on Brentwood Road since it was shuttered Oct. 21, 2001.

“This is a new day for the U.S. Postal Service,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting delegate to Congress.

Speaking in front of a banner that read “New Beginnings,” Mrs. Norton called the renaming of the Brentwood facility an act of “defiance” against those who sent the anthrax letters.

“Leaving the building empty would’ve been a monument to fear,” she said. “Instead of an empty memorial, it’s a working memorial.”

Joseph P. Curseen Jr., 47, of Clinton, and Thomas J. Morris Jr., 55, of Suitland, were among 2,500 full- and part-time employees involved in Brentwood’s operations at the time of the anthrax attacks.

Their families were greeted with a standing ovation as they helped unveil one of two plaques, each about 3 feet square, that will be placed inside the building.

The bronze-on-black writing on the plaques reads, “We are poorer for their loss but richer for having been touched by these dedicated hard-working heroes.”

Mary Morris said the dedication was a fitting tribute to her husband of nearly 11 years. “It lets me know that a nice guy got the honor and recognition he deserved,” she said.

Mrs. Morris, who moved from Maryland to Illinois a month ago, said the ceremony also helped bring finality to the events surrounding her husband’s death.

The dedication was an open house of sorts for the workers, who were not permitted inside while crews in hazardous materials suits decontaminated and renovated the building.

The $130 million cleanup included new carpet, electrical wiring and bathrooms.

“I really missed this place,” said mail handler Victoria Evans, who worked at the postal facility for 16 years before the anthrax attacks. “It’s nice to be coming back.”

Hundreds of workers had been reassigned to five postal facilities in the area during the cleanup.

About 120 employees began moving into their offices and cubicles earlier this month.

Another 100 employees were expected to return today, when customers will be able to purchase stamps and mail letters for the first time in 26 months.

“We anticipate a very busy day,” said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yackley.

The building is expected to be fully operational by mid-February, with a work force of about 1,700, Miss Yackley said. Workers who do not want to return will be allowed to transfer to other mail facilities in the area.

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