Suspicious envelope closes Journal's printer

By Mac Overton

GLADEWATER, Texas--The anthrax scare spread to East Texas Oct. 15 when a suspicious letter showed up at the offices of The Gladewater Mirror, whose web offset press produces The Journal: News of the Churches of God.

The offices of the Gladewater paper were shut down for about five hours, said publisher Jim Bardwell. The press area, which serves as a regional printing hub for the Westward newspaper chain and also prints more than 30 other newspapers under contract, was out of operation for about two hours.

Mr. Bardwell said the newspaper received a business envelope addressed to The Gladewater Mirror with "no discernible postmark" written in both English and another language.

Mr. Bardwell told The Journal Oct. 29 that tests at a laboratory in Dallas came up negative, but the envelope was not returned to the newspaper office. He has no idea what was in the envelope.

"If it was somebody sending us a $10,000 check," he said, "I hope they will eventually notice it wasn't cashed and send us a replacement."

He said he didn't intend to open the envelope Oct. 15 and had thrown it in the trash without opening it. Then his press manager noticed the envelope and recommended the paper report it to the local police.

"Within 15 minutes the police and fire department were on the scene," said Mr. Bardwell.

The Gladewater police notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which advised them how to handle it. The Gladewater law enforcers turned the envelope over to the Longview fire department's "hazmat" (hazardous materials) unit.

"I don't joke about it," Mr. Bardwell said. "I apologized to the police for calling them, and they were dead serious. You should call, they told me. I said, 'Hey, guys, this is Gladewater.' They told me you are part of a chain, and you are on lists. They told me to err on the side of caution."

Before the hazmat personnel allowed the newspaper to reopen its front office, they asked employees to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces with chlorine bleach.

"Some say I overreacted," Mr. Bardwell said, "but if safety is involved let's err on the side of caution."

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