Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is a pretty massive space — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most who work in and occupy its 57 acres completely forgot that something very useful was just sitting around in the crypt.
That is, except for one man.
A few weeks ago, longtime head mason Joe Alonso heard about the shortage of medical supplies during the coronavirus outbreak, a cathedral spokesperson told The Washington Post. With that in mind, Alonso decided to go down to the church’s extensive crypt level to check on a purchase made back in 2006.
And there, Alonso saw them: thousands of unused respirator masks.
Upon the discovery of the masks, cathedral officials contacted the manufacturer and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to verify that they were still safe to use, according to a cathedral press release. After getting clearance, the cathedral donated 5,000 masks on Wednesday to two hospitals — Georgetown University Hospital (which received 3,000 masks) and Children’s National Hospital (which got 2,000) — to help fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“In these difficult and trying times, the Cathedral community is doing everything we can to help protect the most vulnerable among us from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a press release. “We have made significant adjustments to our worship programs and made church services available for streaming online, and now we’re prepared to take this additional, proactive step to ensure thousands have access to protection that otherwise may never have been available to them.”
The church also noted that it would keep “a small number of masks to facilitate in pastoral care needs.”
When news broke of the cathedral’s good deed, some were a bit surprised that the space had a crypt.
The crypt is actually the burial place of some pretty significant people, such as Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson, according to the National Park Service. But that shouldn’t be considered the weirdest aspect of the space — it also has a sculpture of Darth Vader, according to its site.