(RNS) — The Washington National Cathedral will donate thousands of medical masks to two local hospitals in the nation’s capital after finding a forgotten trove of the much needed protective equipment just feet from where Helen Keller and other prominent Americans lie in the cathedral’s underground crypts.

Bought in 2006 as a precaution during an outbreak of the H5N1 flu, also known as bird or avian flu, the more than 5,000 N95 respiratory masks had been forgotten until the cathedral’s chief stonemason, Joseph Alonso, remembered coming across them in an unfinished area of the crypt level early this month.

Though still in their original packaging, the masks were technically expired, and cathedral staffers first reached out to the manufacturer and the Center for Disease Control

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