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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
New Yorkers anxious over anthrax
Biohazard investigators at the Senate on Sunday
There have been nine cases of anthrax so far in the US
Jane Standley

Another day, another anthrax scare in New York.

It seems like there is one almost every day now. There's no visible panic on the streets - but great fearfulness.

People already badly shaken by the World Trade Centre attack are worried - what could happen next?

Dr Harvey Kushner, head of the Criminal Justice Department at Long Island University, says: "The greatest risk of all of this is the crippling fear - this inability of people to go about their daily business."

You would automatically think it's a Middle Eastern thing, but it could be some angry American who doesn't like government policy

Lilly Chin
"It's not the fear of another terrorist attack - or of our ability to respond to it, or of a biological event, or a chemical event, or a nuclear event," he says. "But it's the fear itself, the fear of the unknown - which is the greatest threat to America now."

The nerves of people who work in landmark buildings - like the Empire State Building - are especially frayed. Firms like the Sterling group - a trendy marketing consultancy - have been evacuated many times since the 11 September attacks.

Climate of fear

And now there are new less tangible threats to worry about, says Doug Popovich, a vice-president of the firm.

"I get calls on the phone saying get the hell out of there, there's anthrax at NBC. And I'm on the other line with a client. And friends and family are calling up saying are you alright. It's hard to focus then."

Over lunch in the company lounge, staff members talk of how they're coping, their anthrax fears, and where it's coming from.

The burning Twin Towers
The events of 11 September are still raw in people's minds
Lilly Chin says: "You would automatically think it's a Middle Eastern thing, but it could be some angry American who doesn't like government policy. There are plenty of militant guys, flying under the radar like Timothy McVeigh was - who would like to take advantage of a situation like this."

Lilly's colleague Clay Pullen agrees - he thinks it may well turn out to be Americans who are behind the anthrax mail campaign.

At the offices of the Planned Parenthood Foundation in Nassau County Long Island, staff are continuing with what for other Americans are new - but for them are normal - letter opening procedures.

Nothing new

Rubber gloves at hand, a staff member carefully slits open letters which have already been sorted through by someone else with more experience and seniority.

In 1998, pro-choice groups like them were targeted with threatening letters. Containing white powder, they were sent by extremist right wing and anti-abortion groups.

Since the 11 September World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Planned Parenthood and its associates have had more than 100 suspicious letters. While Karen Pearl, the President of Planned Parenthood in Nassau County, is sure many will turn out to be hoaxes, she says you can not be sure.

She also says that people must be helped to keep calm. "People get very anxious - they need to be reminded that often the threat is not real - and that if it is, we can also deal with it."

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Americas
Capitol reopens after anthrax alert
18 Oct 01 | Americas
Bio-labs face tight security
17 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax: Vehicle for spreading fear
17 Oct 01 | Americas
Using anthrax as a weapon
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