While that whole period for me was quite scary (I was working at CNN at the time), the anthrax events hit me hard, esp. since I covered a lot of those pressers (live video feeds into Headline News newsroom) on weekends when we had little live content and few producers in the room. As a source of that little bit of live content on our air, the HLN "ticker," I covered those pressers live in breaking news, with no copyeditors or producers checking my work. But it was also emotionally nerve-wracking, esp. because I saw bits of the pressers (the boring bits) that never went on the air, but had asides and blather that showed me exactly how frightened those people really were.
After one particularly harrowing presser, the first to report the DC deaths, I went home after my overnight shift and threw up, so certain that as I went to bed at mid-day, I'd wake up to more people dying all over the country.
This is not an event I think should ever be forgotten.
One of the best and smartest members in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Rush Holt, has rejected the "look to the future - not the past" Orwellian mantra, at least when it comes to the highly consequential though still unresolved anthrax attack:
HOLT INTRODUCES ANTHRAX COMMISSION LEGISLATION
Bill Would Create 9/11 Commission-Style Panel to Investigate
Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today introduced the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act of 2009, legislation that would establish a Congressional commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks and the federal government's response to and investigation of the attacks. . . . Holt has consistently raised questions about the federal investigation into the attacks.
"All of us – but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks – deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case really is closed," Holt said. . . .
The importance of full disclosure of all facts surrounding the anthrax attacks cannot be overstated. This was the opposite of a run-of-the-mill crime. To the contrary, the anthrax attacks -- by design, as everyone acknowledges -- had an immense political impact on the country. Contrary to endless claims from Bush supporters that Bush allowed no more terrorist attacks on "the homeland" after 9/11, the anthrax attack was exactly such a terrorist attack.
For reasons I've detailed previously, I actually believe that the anthrax attacks played a larger role than the 9/11 attack itself in elevating America's fear levels to hysterical heights, which in turn put the citizenry into the state of frightened submission that enabled so many of the subsequent events of the Bush presidency. The 9/11 attacks appeared to be a one-time extraordinary event, but it was multi-staged anthrax attacks -- coming a mere four weeks later -- that normalized and personalized the Terrorist threat. As Atrios put it in his inimitably succinct style:
I've long been fascinated by the erasure of the anthrax attacks - which, in their own way, freaked out the country more than 9/11 did* - from our collective memory.
*People object when I suggest this, but while the 9/11 attacks were of course The Big Ones, anthrax was this creepy shit which was KILLING US THROUGH THE MAIL. While most people didn't expect a plane to fly into their building, the anthrax attacks created a heightened sense of OMIGOD THIS COULD HAPPEN TO ME. 9/11 was terrible, but the anthrax attacks were terrifying to people.