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No illness reported by employees after ‘anthrax scare’ at SBC o


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–No illness was reported by employees as the Southern Baptist Convention Building reopened March 9 after a suspicious letter opened March 5 prompted a number of precautionary steps by Nashville, Tenn., emergency officials.
Four employees of the SBC Executive Committee and a fire department captain underwent a decontamination wash of 10-percent Clorox and water, in addition to being given antibiotics, for possible exposure to deadly anthrax bacteria. The SBC Building was closed March 8.
The letter, postmarked on the West Coast, was forwarded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to a lab for tests, which were not available March 9 but were expected within a week.
The letter was opened in the Executive Committee offices on the SBC Building’s seventh floor during in the late morning of March 5. Bill Merrell, vice president of convention relations for the Executive Committee, said local authorities were contacted and precautions they recommended were taken, including limiting access to the building.
Emergency officials, who were on the scene for more than four hours, responded from the FBI, Metro Police Department, Metro Health Department, Nashville Fire Department and Metro Office of Emergency Management. Numerous emergency vehicles were dispatched to the scene.
The suspicious envelope did not appear to contain any toxic contents, Merrell said of the authorities’ initial assessment.
“There was a sense the Lord was here, guiding us through the day and giving us strength,” said Morris H. Chapman, Executive Committee president, said of the calm among staff members on the building’s seventh floor who were confined for several hours to the floor. Chapman was among those on the floor.
Emergency workers led a debriefing session with Executive Committee staff, and Chapman led in a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s grace during the incident and the local officials’ assistance.
“I was stunned” upon opening the envelope, said the first employee, who asked not to be identified, to see the contents of the letter. Later came “a peace about it, knowing it must have been a hoax,” she said.
Jack Wilkerson, vice president for business and finance, and one of the four employees exposed to the letter, said, “We’re thankful all of our employees are OK.” They responded appropriately to the situation, he said, “and we fully cooperated with the police and health officials. The health and safety of our employees and other people in the building were our paramount concerns.”
After a phone conversation earlier in the afternoon between Chapman and James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources across the street, sandwiches and other food items were delivered from LifeWay’s cafeteria for the confined Executive Committee staff members and the assisting emergency workers.