- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

Employees returning to the Brentwood postal facility in Northeast yesterday, for the first time since anthrax contaminated the building two years ago and two postal workers died, expressed little concern about their safety.

Delores J. Killette, postmaster for the District, and about 120 administrators and finance staffers returned to second-floor offices in the 633,000-square-foot building where 2,500 employees worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week before it was shut down Oct. 21, 2001.

“This is a moment I have been looking forward to for two years,” Miss Killette said. “It’s like coming home, or a family reunion.”

Miss Killette said the building — which is the main postal distribution facility for the District — will reopen for customers “hopefully before Christmas” and should be fully operational by January.

She said she is “confident” in the level of safety. Testing for spores is conducted daily, she said.

The general attitude among the returning employees was good, Miss Killette said.

Yesterday, Jessie Chestnut, 49, of the District, a human resources associate who has worked at Brentwood for seven years, wore blue latex gloves as she sat at her desk, sorting through a box of papers.

“I just didn’t want to get my hands dirty,” said Miss Chestnut, a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, denying the gloves were because of a fear of contamination. She said she was wearing them to protect herself against dust and paper cuts.

“I was here when the first incident happened, but I still feel safe,” she said.

Lorraine Smith of Fort Washington, who has worked in the Human Resources Division for 21 years, didn’t have any reservations about returning to the facility at 900 Brentwood Road NE. “I’m not really worried. Not at all, really,” she said.

Miss Smith, who had worked at Brentwood for only about six months on weekends, was there the day the building was shut down after two employees came in contact with anthrax-laced letters, which subsequently were delivered to the Hart Senate Office Building.

The facility was renamed the Curseen-Morris Mail Processing and Distribution Center in honor of Joseph Curseen Jr., 47, of Clinton, and Thomas Morris Jr., 55, of Suitland. Both men died after handling the anthrax-tainted mail, some addressed to Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

The FBI investigated the deaths as homicides, but no one has been charged.

Asked about the two workers who died, Miss Killette said they “would be proud. This is like victory.”

Since last December, the huge warehouse and mail sorting complex has undergone a $130 million, 17-hour fumigation in which chlorine-dioxide gas was pumped throughout the sealed building. Office equipment, machinery, plumbing and other fixtures have been cleaned, rebuilt or replaced.

Vivian Mack-Boston, a systems analyst who transferred to the Southern Maryland branch during the decontamination, said, “I wasn’t bothered by the move. It had to be done. It’s a part of life. I knew the employees that died, so, of course, it was kind of strange. But I never felt unsafe” about returning.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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