The Antrax Scare
Arizonanas have expressed a great deal of concern about anthrax, which has found its way into a small number of mail rooms, media outlets, and even Congress. Concern is warranted-but not panic. The odds of getting struck by lightning are far greater than a person’s chance of personally experiencing a bio-terrorist attack.
Americans can rest assured that each of these anthrax episodes is being investigated and treated by responsible officials. The government is taking necessary precautions. And this strain of anthrax, when caught early, appears to be easily treatable with 100 percent success of recovery.
Nevertheless, this experience is another example of the way America and its people have been forced to adapt to the world that has changed for all of us since September 11.
We are already seeing these changes in other aspects of our daily lives. Security at airports and on planes continues to be strengthened. We are stepping up security at our nation’s landmarks. Senator Dianne Feinstein and I recently held hearings in the Senate to address ways to improve America’s visa entry system to keep known terrorists from entering our country or using false visas to stay here.
We will now make similar adjustments to our mail service. Many of you have read about anthrax delivered to the office of Senator Tom Daschle. Several Senate staffers were found to test positive for exposure to anthrax, and were treated immediately. Exposure to anthrax does not mean that any person has contracted anthrax. And as I’ve already indicated, this strain of anthrax is easily treated and cured.
Yet, as a precautionary measure, mail to Congressional offices was temporarily halted to improve security measures. New filters will be put in place to check for hazardous substances before mail is delivered. Staff members are being trained and educated on the proper way to handle mail. The Senate business was not affected (except that we will not be able to as quickly respond to some constituent mail.)
I recognize that many Americans have anxiety about their own mail They should not be frightened. An attack on a personal residence is highly unlikely – terrorists tend to look for bigger targets to accomplish their aims.
Nonetheless, there are simple steps we can all take to reduce any threats to our own safety. My web site outlines many of the steps prudent people should follow in dealing with suspicious letters or packages. They are the same steps I have asked my staff to take in handling correspondence to our office in Washington, Phoenix and Tucson. You can view my web site for a full summary of this information at kyl.senate.gov.
Arizonans also wonder what to expect next, and candidly there is no certain answer. Yet I am confident that Governor Hull and other officials are taking all steps necessary to react quickly to any threats against our fellow Arizonans. The danger to Arizona is minimal, but I intend to continue my conversations with officials in our state to ascertain our readiness.
Arizona and the rest of our nation are properly vigilant, but we do not cower. To do so would be to let the terrorists win. Fear is a terrorist’s weapon of choice. They hope to make us change our behavior.
Leaders should set an example. That’s why the Senate has continued to do its business. And delivery of the mail to Congressional offices will resume quickly, once new security measures are in place.
All Americans can set similar examples, particularly for our kids and grandkids. This is a scary time for them, and we should be honest with them with the information we present. But we also send them an important message when we continue with our daily lives and resume our normal activities as much as possible.
I am totally convinced that a strong and confident nation will meet the uncertain challenges before us.