"The Anthrax Attacks: In the Shadow of 9/11"

Netflix offers a new 95-minute acted docudrama The Anthrax Attacks, directed Dan Krausse. There seems to be a subtitle, In the Shadow of 9/11.

The history is summarized well in a Wikipedia article.

I was living in Minneapolis the time of the 9/11 attacks. The first letters were mailed one week later, on Tuesday Sept. 18. I remember the day well because I took an evening trip 40 miles or so to Northfield. The first letters were mailed from Trenton or Princeton, NJ, and for a time there was a suspect in the NJ area (now no longer reported in accounts). More were mailed around Oct.

The first victim was a worker at the National Enquirer in Boca Raton FL. I do remember the surprise about hearing about this a few days later. Over time several letters surfaced to congresspersons and to news personalities at places like NBC. But some letters passed through the Brentwood post office station in NE DC, where two died. Many persons became ill and employees, according to the film, believed they were not being told the full truth. Others died (up to a total of five) died in NYC and Connecticut. Generally the cause of severe illness and death was inhalation anthrax. Some cases could not be traced to specific letters. Attention was given to irradiating the mail, and considering extra protection for postal employees. I actually very nearly had a job as a letter carrier in late 2004 (northern VA).

There was a lot more news about these attacks around the second weekend of October, on what I remember as an event for National Coming Out Day.

As the documentary progresses, the style turned to acted drama. The investigation will settled on two suspects, finally Dr. Bruce Edward Ivins, played by Clark Gregg. He becomes a somewhat sorrowful retrospective protagonist for the film. Ivins had worked largely at USAMRIID at Fort Dietrich, MD, in Frederick (I have visited the museum and grounds once, around 2012). His motive seems to have been to create an attack that would appear to be Islamic in order to speed up acceptance of the new vaccine he had developed.

The bacterium is studied at only a few places, one a US Dept of Agriculture lab near I35 somewhat north of Des Moines, IA. I've driven past it once, in an utterly flat stretch of road.

Of course, the film tracks to my own recollection of that time in my life. 93 days after the 9/11 attacks I would be laid off from my job at ING-ReliaStar and formally 'retire' at age 58, and sometimes dabble with more 'proletarian' jobs. Several other epidemics or pandemics have turned out to be more long-lasting and deadly than this mainly HIV-AIDS in the 80s and COVID19 starting in 2020 (maybe earlier).

George W. Bush ('W', remember that movie) once bragged 'I do not have anthrax', not realizing a lot of other diseases are more dreadful for larger numbers of Americans.

(Posted: Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 11 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)