Ricin scares reminiscent of anthrax attacks for mail handlers

For many, the scene at an offsite White House and Senate postal facility in Landover, Md. Wednesday was all too familiar. Days after 9/11, anthrax was detected in post offices, congressional offices and newsrooms around the country. Five people died during the anthrax attack and 17 others got sick.

The people truly at the center of the recent ricin scares are those who handle the mail.

Letters sent to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, tested positive for poisonous ricin in preliminary checks Wednesday.

The Prince George’s County Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team responded to the government mail handling facility at 6:30 a.m. Ricin was found in air filters and the hazmat crew had to search for the source.

“This is not the life we should be living in today,” says Mickey Oudit.

Oudit owns a business next door and heard about the ricin-laced letters sent to Sen. Wicker and President Obama. He is stunned to think the deadly poison is now at a third location.

“It’s terrible as even with the Boston bombing and this here, we have so much tight security. It changes our lives. Our lives have definitely been changed,” he says.

For local postal workers, it’s even more frightening and reminiscent of the anthrax attacks after 9/11. Dena Briscoe was working at the Brentwood postal facility in 2001 when two of her colleagues died from exposure to anthrax-laced mail. Now she is a union official and once again concerned.

In Landover, the hazmat crews worked all day Wednesday in their exposure suits, going in and out of the hot zone, looking for the source of the suspected poison. The neighbors who watched hoped it was a false alarm.

“Because it seems like once something happens in one place it’s like a train effect, somebody else gets on board and it keeps going. I think it’s a sad situation,” says Vanessa Holmes.