- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

Suzanne Hogan, of Potomac Falls, is no stranger to disasters. As an Army brat in West Germany in 1972, her high school class was captivated for days watching televised reports of the terrorist attack during the Olympic Games in Munich. As a congressional aide to Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. in April 1995, she worked with families after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

Two years ago, Mrs. Hogan, now an Army wife, was stuck in rush-hour traffic on Key Bridge when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, where her husband, Lt. Col. Michael Hogan, worked in the office of congressional legislative liaison.

“That was my third bout with terrorism,” Mrs. Hogan said yesterday. “I didn’t know where my husband was for hours, but he survived, and that was the gift God gave back to me, and I am so grateful to have him.”

“It’s been a hard day,” she said, fighting back the tears that filled the eyes of many Americans as they, too, remembered so many lives lost and forever changed after those fateful, fearful hours of September 11. She had expected to better control her emotions on the second anniversary of the Pentagon attack.

She thought of friends who had lost their lives in the attack, particularly one retired veteran, a mentor, who was the last soldier airlifted out of Vietnam.

“9/11 has many meanings to many people, and I always try to keep in mind that every day somebody has a 9/11 when someone they love doesn’t come home,” she said as she headed home “to hug my child.” If anyone knows the value of being prepared for the worst, it’s Mrs. Hogan.

No wonder her job as chief communications officer for the American Red Cross National Capital Chapter, which sponsors the “Together We Prepare” campaign, is a natural fit.

After the September 11 strikes heightened awareness about the likelihood of terrorist attacks within the country’s borders, the nationwide Red Cross initiated a public service effort to make the country safer by challenging individuals to do five simple yet practical things: make a plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer and give blood. The last item is a little tricky as the Red Cross was criticized for disposing of many blood donations two years ago.

Mrs. Hogan reiterated the agency’s explanation: While there was an unusually large influx of blood donors, there were more fatalities than injuries. Though blood has a certain shelf life, plasma and other parts of blood can be stored for later use.

The Red Cross continues to sponsor blood drives and asks folks to become regular donors.

“In this country, if we had only two days’ water supply, we would be outraged,” she said. “But there are many times when we are down to a few days’ supply of blood, and we should never be without blood.”

The Together We Prepare campaign lists emergency precautions similar to those suggested by the Homeland Security Department, such as keeping a flashlight and a battery-powered radio on hand.

Even though the District’s overhauled crisis plan received certification this week from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, Peter LaPorte, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, told The Washington Times that “preparedness starts at home.” The Red Cross wants families to start by developing an emergency blueprint detailing such information as where they will meet and how they will contact one another in the event of an attack or even something as basic as a bad storm.

They also should practice evacuation drills. “Until every household is prepared, our job is ongoing,” Mrs. Hogan said. To better prepare her family, she has given Red Cross emergency backpacks to her son, daughter and husband, as well as members of her extended family.

“It’s the perfect gift. Everyone in the family has one for [himself or herself], at school, in the house and in the car,” she said. For those too busy or too bothered to put together their own emergency kit, the Red Cross sells a variety of prepackaged kits, ranging from a fanny pack for sports fans to a disaster backpack with three days’ emergency supplies for a family of four.

The items, which can be ordered from the Red Cross Web site, range in price from $4.50 for a first-aid key chain to $35 for a backpack and $70 for a first-responder kit. The Red Cross also offers public safety courses in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of a defibrillator, and encourages people “to get trained to do for yourself and others what you expect first responders to do,” Mrs. Hogan said. Of course, they always need volunteers.

“Be prepared,” is an old motto. Many of us heard this valuable credo as early as a troop meeting of the Brownies or Cub Scouts. This lifesaving lesson holds even truer today.

As Mrs. Hogan suggests, we can be mindful of our fears, but must live life to the fullest every day, all the while doing what we can do to be ready whenever the storm or the bombs hit.

One of the best ways to pay tribute and homage to those who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks, Mrs. Hogan said, would be to create a better-prepared America, where people are not only able to help themselves, but also their neighbors and community.

“We can never forget, but we should also be prepared in case the unspeakable comes again,” Mrs. Hogan said.

For more information about the Together We Prepare program, go to www.redcrossnca.org.

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