Families, colleagues grieve for postal workers who died from anthrax

More than 400 postal workers filled a Washington church Tuesday afternoon to remember and mourn two colleagues who died last month from anthrax. "Joseph [Curseen] and Thomas [Morris] were perfect examples of what makes the Postal Service great...our people," Postmaster General John Potter told the group of mourners gathered at All Souls Church, Unitarian for a memorial service honoring the two employees. "They were part of the fabric that makes the Postal Service unique." Curseen and Morris worked at Washington's Brentwood Road postal facility, where a letter laced with anthrax bacteria was sorted before being sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not find traces of the bacteria at Brentwood in its initial testing. As a result, neither Curseen nor Morris and others were initially tested for exposure. Morris was a 28-year Postal Service veteran; Curseen had spent 16 years with the Postal Service. "Joseph and Thomas never formally enlisted in the fight for this war on terrorism, but they found themselves on the front lines," said Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. "They had no warning that they would give their lives for this cause, but give them they did." Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Albert Wynn, D-Md., joined Ridge and Potter at the podium, all expressing sorrow at the loss suffered by the families of the two workers. Members of the Postal Service's board of governors also attended the memorial. "We in government have not served you well," Wynn said, drawing thunderous applause from the audience of mostly postal employees. "It goes without saying that mistakes were made…though not intentional mistakes. Neither compensation nor words are adequate at a time like this." Yet, the memorial service was not solemn as family, clergy and co-workers focused on celebrating the lives of Curseen and Morris. One co-worker described Curseen as a dedicated postal employee who always carried a red Bible and who often played his hand wrong in the lunchtime Bid Whist card game. "Joe gave up breaks to get the mail out," James Harper said. "Joe stayed there seven days a week, 10 hours a day." Morris was honest, dependable, respectful, considerate and kind, said co-worker Brenda Thompson. "He was always true, he did what was right, even if it inconvenienced him," said his widow, Mary Morris. "He followed the rules." Legislation (H.R. 3228) pending in Congress would create a compensation fund for anthrax victims. Norton, a co-sponsor of the bill, vowed that Congress would work closely with Postal Service officials to ensure the safety and well-being of postal workers. "There will be more memorials and there are better memories of these two men, but the best memorial to these two fallen and dedicated men is to ensure that these men and women who survive and continue to serve America, serve in safety and security," Norton declared in closing.
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