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December 2003

Inspector Bill Paliscak

U.S. Postal Inspector

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Inspector Bill Paliscak, of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as its Officer of the Month for December 2003.

On September 11, 2001, the lives of an entire nation changed forever. Terrorists orchestrated the largest attack ever to take place on U.S. soil, changing the way Americans view our freedoms and safety. Seventy-two brave law enforcement officers lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on United Airlines Flight 93, marking the deadliest day in law enforcement history. Afterward teams of law enforcement officers were dispatched to all three sites to assist in recovery efforts and to gather evidence. Inspector Bill Paliscak spent countless hours at the Pentagon sifting through the wreckage of man's inhumanity to man.

Just as the nation was coming to grips with this tragedy another covert, more sinister attack took place. In October 2001, letters laced with the deadly Bacillus anthracis bacteria were mailed to offices within the United States Senate and to news stations across the country. Americans quickly learned that the by-product of this deadly bacterium is the acute infectious disease, Anthrax, and the race was on to identify the postal facility at which these letters were processed. Two locations, the Brentwood facility in Washington, DC, and a postal distribution center in Hamilton, NJ were identified as major contamination sites and immediately both facilities were evacuated. Again United States Postal Inspection Service agents answered the call to duty and the thirty-nine year old Paliscak was sent into another hot spot.

On October 19, 2001 Inspector Paliscak and a team of local and federal officers entered the Brentwood facility in hopes of finding clues that would lead to the arrest of those behind the anthrax scare. It was thought that by encrypting the DNA of the anthrax, it would be possible to trace it back to where the original strain was developed. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) assured those who entered the site that paper masks and latex gloves were all they would need to protect themselves from the deadly spores. This would prove to be a tragic mistake, as the anthrax that was found at Brentwood was later classified as "weapons grade", containing much older and more dangerous spores.

As the officers began searching the facility, the anthrax was traced to one specific machine. Lab technicians felt that if they could get a sample from its filter they would be able to trace the spores to their original strain. As Inspector Paliscak removed the filter of the machine, a cloud of anthrax contaminated dust dispensed, covering him with the deadly spores. Within 24 hours, Inspector Paliscak began to feel ill, but due to the severity of the situation, and believing that the nation's security hung in the balance, he reported to the Brentwood facility for three additional days. As his condition worsened, he began a ten-day cycle of taking the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin; however, he had been exposed to the deadly bacterium for too long and was soon hospitalized for acute anthrax inhalation. By the end of November, the anthrax attacks killed five people in Connecticut, Florida, New York and Washington, and sickened 12 others individuals.

Once admitted to the hospital Inspector Paliscak received every known treatment for the disease, the least of which being an aggressive course of intravenous antibiotics. Although all tests confirmed that little to no traces of anthrax were found in his system, his condition continued to worsen for some time after his initial hospitalization. Currently, Inspector Paliscak continues to fight the effects of the anthrax that he came into contact with over two years ago. He is in and out of the hospital with shortness of breath, fever, headaches, a partially collapsed lung, and disease of the pericardium. He looks forward to returning to active duty, and placing handcuffs on the persons responsible for the many anthrax related deaths. United States Postal Inspection Service officials look forward to his return as well.

Bill Paliscak's, who served a tour of duty with the United States Marine Corps, received his Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Villanova University. After graduation, at the urging of several friends already serving with the Postal Inspection Service, Bill Paliscak applied for a position as an inspector and for the past five years has served that agency with distinction. In February 2003, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) recognized Inspector Paliscak's devotion to duty by bestowing on him the association's National Heroism Award.