Section of hall opens after anthrax scare

Greg Kane

More than a week after the discovery of a suspicious substance resulted in the evacuation of the building, Santa Clara Hall re-opened its doors Thursday.

The building was shut down Oct. 10 after a worker in the building discovered an envelope containing a white, powdery substance, a $5 bill and a note with the message “Sleepers will awaken,” according to Sacramento Police Officer Dennis Biederman.

Initial tests conducted by the Sacramento County Health Department showed the substance was not anthrax, the potentially deadly bacteria receiving international attention after being mailed to prominent figures and businesses around the world. The common method of delivery for the anthrax has been a white powder included in mailed letters.

Subsequent test results released Thursday showed that the substance was not a biohazardous material, said Frank Whitlatch of the Sacramento State Public Affairs Office.

“They?re sure it?s not a biohazard,” Whitlatch said. “We know it?s not anthrax, and it?s not a plague.”

It is still not known what the substance was, Whitlatch said.

The incident is still under investigation, said Campus Police Public Information Officer John Hamrick. It could have been a prank, or just left accidentally, but there?s no way to tell at this point.

“It?s hard to say,” Hamrick said. “It?s too early to tell.”

Combined with the current anthrax scare, the incident has campus police and others in the University acting with more caution, Hamrick said.

“We?re on an extra level of awareness right now,” he said.

Some students said having the scare occur so close to home made them more cautious and aware of what?s happening in the rest of the country.

Senior Kristen Spillers said she walked by the building just after it closed and immediately connected it to the anthrax incidents that, at the time, were just beginning to surface.

“I just kind of walked by, and waited to hear what happened,” Spillers said.

Senior Jennifer Stuto said the threat seemed further away when it was happening on the East Coast, but the incident at Santa Clara Hall, however benign, made her think about it more.

“The closer it gets, the closer it seems,” Stuto said. “The chances that it could happen to me or (anyone else) increased ten-fold.”

Stuto said the idea that something like anthrax could reach the Sac State campus is not as far off as she once thought.

“I don?t want it to be true, but it very well could (reach Sac State),” Stuto said. “Anything can really happen at this point.”

A contractor found the envelope while working on renovations on Santa Clara Hall. The building was quickly evacuated, and response teams from Sacramento Fire Department and the Sacramento Police Department closed off the area soon after.

The contractor who was exposed to the substance was stripped down and scrubbed as a precautionary measure, said Captain David Whitt, public information officer for the fire department.

Most of Santa Clara Hall was re-opened the following morning, but the section where the powder and note were found remained closed until the test results came through.

Hamrick said there is no way of knowing when the investigation will be completed.