NEW YORK – FOX News medical contributor Dr. Manny Alvarez reported on the public health crisis wrought by Hurricane Katrina for FNC while volunteering at a medical shelter in Baton Rouge. Below are his personal impressions of the human tragedy unfolding in the Gulf Coast.
As September settles upon us, the days are beginning to shorten as we watch our kids prepare to return to their regular routine after a long summer interlude.
It's back to school--reading, writing, arithmetic.
Perhaps we recall watching our children at the shore, the waves furiously pounding the beach, the kids up and down the shore line attacking the waves with reckless abandon, the life guards keeping a watchful eye on their customers.
Maybe we watched our daughters and sons and their friends dig holes in the sand, building sandcastles along with more enduring lifetime memories. Safe in the contentment that their families and friends will always be there for them, our children's minds and hearts are etched with all the joys and discovery of youth. As parents, we wax back and forth between admonishment and praise, all while our children grow up faster than we could have ever imagined.
Perhaps your heart weeped as your oldest started checking out the boys at the beach with her girlfriends, or your eyes glazed over with tears of joy as your youngest learned to ride a boogey board through the waves. We hope and pray that we have done our best every day, day in and day out, to keep their minds tuned to the joy of learning and the hope for a better future.
It's an old cliche, but it is nonetheless true: Children are our future. They carry with them our thoughts, fears, hurts and desires. Look into your children's eyes and in them you will see the reflection of truth.
This past week, more than buildings were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. Hope turned to despair and joy turned to fear as flood waters flushed away the hope of tomorrow for so many of the children and families who, devastated by the storm, could not even comprehend their present.
Flood waters unable to recede created a foul-smelling toxic witches' brew fit for the devil's consumption. Cities leveled in a gigantic wave of nature's wrath, the very fabric of human community torn to shreds.
Look into the eyes of Hurricane Katrina's victims, especially the children, and you will see the reflection of a new truth: A truth no longer aware of the joys of childhood, but keenly aware of fear, despair, hunger, thirst, and the lack of the everyday basic items for living that we take for granted.
These are not the chidlren of some distant and foreign land. They are here, in our backyard, and they may not have one to play in for quite some time.
Think of them in the next few minutes, days and weeks as the human drama of Katrina continues to unfold. Focus your thoughts on these families and children, their lives devastated by an unforgiving force, while you put your children to bed at night and caress their beautiful, perfect and innocent faces. Say your prayers with them. Hug and kiss your children like you have never before. Tell them you love them a million times, because even a million times is not enough. Feel your heart fill with joy when, just as you are ready to turn out the lights, your sons and daughters look at you and say, Mommy, Daddy, I love you.
Then turn your thoughts to the hurricane victims and do something to bring hope and the promise of a future to the grief and despair. Act on an impulse of love. Let your heart rule your mind, because, as we've seen, love is the only real foundation humanity has to build on.
Click on the Video box above to watch Dr. Manny's reports on Hurricane Katrina.
FOX News medical contributor Dr. Manny Alvarez is the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., and is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. He appears on FNC's daytime programs FOX & Friends and Dayside.