GW students interning on Capitol Hill who have had a week and a half off of work said they are eager to return despite recent discoveries of anthrax in the area.
“It’s been a nice break, but I’m ready to go back,” said junior Arianna Gleckel, an intern for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y). Schumer’s mail comes from the same room where a letter containing anthrax was found earlier this month.
Congressional offices have been closed since Oct. 18 while U.S. health and law enforcement authorities conducted security sweeps, preventing many student interns from working since a letter addressed to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) containing anthrax was discovered.
The letter was found Oct. 15, leading to the temporary closure of the Capitol and all surrounding office buildings Oct. 17. Almost all Senate buildings have reopened. About 30 Hart staffers, who were in the building where the letter was opened, were exposed to the deadly spores.
The Dirksen Senate office building mail room and the Hart building along with the Longworth and Ford House office buildings remain closed for further testing, according to the Senate and House Web sites.
While opening and sending mail is a common task for Capitol interns, some offices are allowing students to do other things if they feel unsafe.
Junior Eric Yassenoff, an intern for Rep. Dave Hobson (R-Ohio), said he will be “watching more closely” for suspicious mail than he had in the past.
“No one is thinking of quitting in my office,” Yassenoff said.
Some student interns said they have little to worry about because they work in unaffected buildings.
“I’m not really concerned at all,” said sophomore Jonah Zinn, who works in the Cannon building for Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
Michael Mershon, press secretary for McGovern, said demand for staff members and interns was temporarily reduced because alternate office space at General Accounting Office headquarters could not accommodate all of them.
Mershon said interns can return to work once McGovern’s office in the Cannon building re-opens.
The U.S. Capitol Police is briefing interns on how to process mail believed to contain biological agents, Mershon said.
“My congressman’s chief of staff and internship coordinator called me to keep me informed,” Zinn said. “(They) gave me their telephone numbers
if my parents want more information.”