The Washington Post

Postal workers mark 10 years since anthrax attacks

Postal employees Thomas Morris Jr., left, and Joseph Curseen Jr., right, died in Oct. 2001 from exposure to anthrax.

Employees at USPS’s Brentwood Mail Processing Facility, renamed in recent years as the Joseph P. Curseen and Thomas L. Morris Jr. Processing Facility, plan to meet early Friday and again at midday for a more formal gathering with Postal Service officials and other dignitaries.

Curseen, 47 at the time of his death, and Morris, 55 when he died, quickly succumbed to the affects of anthrax 10 years ago this weekend. They were two of five people killed by anthrax exposure; 17 others suffered serious injuries.

In the days after their deaths, then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said that Curseen and Morris had died on the new second battlefield of the then-young war on terrorism.

Noting that postal workers regularly wear blue uniforms, Ridge described the two men’s deaths as “a very solemn and tragic reminder that the uniform of public service and the possibility of dying in the line of duty is nowhere more evident than at Brentwood.”

As Post colleague Martin Weil wrote 10 years ago this week, Curseen, of Clinton, Md., was known as an amiable, soft-spoken neighborhood leader. Curseen, of Suitland, Md., was considered a devout churchgoer and quiet neighbor, known to dispense much-appreciated advice to his younger neighbors.

Here are Friday’s plans to memorialize their lives:

WHO & WHAT: Postal workers and USPS officials hold a “Sunrise Prayer Vigil” and ceremony to honor Curseen and Morris.

WHERE: The Curseen & Morris Postal Processing Facility, 900 Brentwood Rd. NE, Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Friday Oct. 21. Prayer vigil is at 6:45 a.m., followed by a closed, employee-only ceremony at 7:30 a.m.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Prayers and music sung by workers, a few readings and brief statements made by USPS officials, union officials and family members of Curseen and Morris.

Also Friday:

WHO & WHAT: Postal workers, USPS officials and other local dignitaries hold a memorial service: “10 Years of Healing & Moving Forward.”

WHERE: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Friday Oct. 21. Session One: 9:30 - 11 a.m. Session Two: 4-5:30 p.m. (Two sessions are being held to accommodate postal workers on different shifts.)

WHAT TO EXPECT: Music, prayers, readings and more reflections from postal workers, plus a formal address by Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.

Researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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