Center helps to track children

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – First lady Laura Bush said Friday that young children should learn their full names, addresses and parents’ names to speed up reunions after disasters like Hurricane Katrina or anytime a child is lost.

Bush told the story of a 5-year-old boy found walking on Interstate 10 in New Orleans who knew his name, address, mother’s name and the name of his church.

“So that’s a very good reminder to all of us that we need to teach our children as soon as they can talk,” she said during a visit to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which set up a special Katrina hot line with retired law enforcement officers working the phones.

As of noon Friday, 2,812 children had been reported either missing or found but without their caregivers, with 760 of their cases resolved. The center had taken 17,454 Katrina-related calls total.

The center’s president and CEO, Ernie Allen, said the first lady’s visit “brings greater hope and greater visibility” to the hot line and a Web site – http://www.missingkids.com – with the children’s photographs.

“What’s been most important is letting people know the existence of the Web site and the fact that there’s a special effort,” Allen said.

The first lady praised the “very heartfelt speech” given by President Bush on Thursday night from New Orleans and lauded the hot line volunteers, who include Herman Hargrove, a retired New York Police Department detective.

“You can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a loved one,” said Hargrove, who has been with the center since 1992. “To reunite a family is one of the noblest things you can do.”

The Katrina hot line is 888-544-5475.

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