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I sympathize with everyone who lost their luggage on Southwest Airlines during the Christmas holidays.

The day after the September 11 attacks, I made the first of many calls to US Airways to see about retrieving my suitcase, which had been impounded at La Guardia Airport. After hours on hold, an airline employee asked for a description of my bag in order to locate it.

“It’s black,” I began.

“And I bet it has wheels and a pull-up handle,” she said.

This didn’t look promising.

She tried another approach. “Okay, if I open your suitcase, what will I see that tells me it’s yours?”

“Well, I have a pair of black slacks, a black turtleneck…and, um, a black skirt.”

I was in New York for Fashion Week, for God’s sake. Editors wear black, not Hawaiian prints. But I learned a valuable lesson: Something in your luggage must be easy to identify.

Miraculously, the airline found my black-wheeled-suitcase-with-handle in the impounded baggage. However, when I returned to Michigan, I marched into “Frederick’s of Hollywood” and bought the loudest leopard bikini panties – with a strategically placed red heart – that I could find. For many years, they were the final item I packed on every trip. I wanted to be sure that if another airline employee ever asked, ‘If I open your suitcase, what will I see?’ I’d have a much better answer.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “The Anchor Clankers,” and “Anchored Together.”