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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the
October 24, 2001 edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Four million pieces of mail normally pass through the
main Trenton post office every day en route to homes and businesses
throughout the Route 1 corridor. That post office, located on Route
130 in Hamilton Township, has been closed since last Thursday, October
18, after one of its mail sorters tested positive for anthrax.
As the area’s main mail processing and distribution center, the
closing could conceivably paralyze mail delivery throughout central
New Jersey. But not so, said a post office spokesperson, essentially
adding anthrax to the snow and rain and gloom of night that will not
keep the carriers from their appointed rounds.
"We met over the weekend," said Marilyn Thorbahn of the Postal
Service. "We made a lot of different provisions for
Mail is being sorted in tents and trailers for the time being, and
some mail is being diverted to nearby processing centers.
Some Princeton area businesses and residents noted a sharp decline
in mail delivered on Friday and Saturday, but the system was up to
60 percent of normal by Monday, and Thorbahn predicted that it would
be at 100 percent by the end of the week. These figures apply to mail
coming into the main post office, but not to mail that was awaiting
processing when the facility was shut down.
"The mail inside is still being tested," Thorbahn said, adding
that she does not know how much mail being held up, or the dates on
which it was received.
More cases of possible anthrax infection among postal workers were
reported this Monday, October 22, including two deaths in Washington,
D.C., that Ivan Walks, that city’s chief health officer, termed
suspicious" for inhalation anthrax.
As central New Jersey emerges as the origin of mail that has served
as an anthrax delivery system by as-yet-unknown persons, Thorbahn
is inundated with questions. "I’ve gotten 30 calls from the media
so far today," she said at mid-afternoon on October 22 as she
juggled two phone lines in her office in Edison.
One other central New Jersey post office, a small facility in West
Trenton, was closed on October 19. On September 18 a letter containing
anthrax was sent to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw with a postmark indicating
that it had been mailed from West Trenton. On October 9 a letter was
sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle with the same postmark.
A mail carrier who picks up and delivers mail from approximately 250
homes and businesses in West Trenton has been diagnosed with skin
anthrax, and FBI agents are said to be combing the mail route seeking
information on who might have sent the tainted letters.
Meanwhile, the postal service has set up a temporary post office box
section and caller service unit on the grounds of the main Trenton
post office. Mobile units there, and at the West Trenton post office,
are selling stamps and providing other retail services.
Businesses are being directed to take their mail to other central
New Jersey post offices, including the Princeton post office at 213
Carnegie Center; the Kilmer processing and distribution center at
Kilmer Road in Edison; the Monroe Township post office on Pennineville
Road in Jamesburg; and the Hightstown post office on Mercer Street
in Hightstown. The Postal Service suggests that companies call
for information on which of these locations is best suited to accept
To date, Thorbahn said, the post office has been responding to
as they arise. There are no plans at this time to close additional
post offices. "I’m hoping, we’re all hoping, that this is the
end," she said.
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