FBI finds no trace of anthrax at ACU

Thursday | October 11, 2001

By Loretta Fulton / Abilene Reporter-News

An anthrax scare at Abilene Christian University turned out to be a false alarm, just as school officials thought all along.

ACU President Royce Money said the university was notified Wednesday afternoon that a suspicious letter postmarked from Greece contained no trace of the deadly anthrax virus.

"We are glad to get the all-clear this afternoon," Money said.

The Hardin Administration Building, which was quarantined Tuesday night, reopened at 4 p.m. Wednesday after Abilene FBI Special Agent Gary Macnoll contacted ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison.

The building was sealed off Tuesday evening after an employee opened a suspicious letter described as being written partly in Greek and partly in incoherent English. The letter did not use the word "anthrax," Money said, but included abbreviations and references that could have been interpreted as "anthrax" and had a threatening tone.

As a precaution, the Abilene police and fire departments, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, Rural/Metro Ambulance and a hazardous materials unit from Dyess Air Force Base responded. The FBI agents seized the letter and took it to Dallas for analysis.

Fears about anthrax attacks have been heightened nationwide in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults in New York and Washington, D.C., and the revelation earlier this week that anthrax had killed a Florida man. Anthrax spores were also found in the nose of a co-worker of the victim.

By Wednesday morning life was virtually back to normal at ACU after students had gathered around the administration building Tuesday night to see what was happening. During an 11 a.m. chapel service Wednesday, students sang and prayed as usual, heard a Missions Emphasis Week speaker and then a short talk from Money.

Social club pledges didn't let the scare interfere with their fun, as they sat in groups, all dressed alike, during chapel. Sharon Wallace, a sophomore Sigma Theta Chi pledge, admitted she was scared Tuesday night because she works in the campus mailroom and may have touched the letter.

But she was determined not to let the scare ruin her fun. Tuesday night she watched members of the social club play flag football and Wednesday she put on her yellow skirt and white blouse, just like fellow pledges.

"I'm not going to let it affect the way I carry out my day," she said.

Contact staff writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or fultonl@abinews.com.


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