A New Orleans Stoop: Solace After the Storm The front porch of New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose became an unofficial town hall and community center after Hurricane Katrina. Neighbors congregated to vent, cry and laugh; he likens it to a "24-hour therapy session."

A New Orleans Stoop: Solace After the Storm

A New Orleans Stoop: Solace After the Storm

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New Orleans musician Gary Hirstius (with guitar) is among the neighbors and passersby gathered on Chris Rose's New Orleans porch on this night in October 2005. Scroll down to read an excerpt from Rose's book 1 Dead in Attic. Charlie Varley/Sipa hide caption

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Charlie Varley/Sipa

New Orleans musician Gary Hirstius (with guitar) is among the neighbors and passersby gathered on Chris Rose's New Orleans porch on this night in October 2005. Scroll down to read an excerpt from Rose's book 1 Dead in Attic.

Charlie Varley/Sipa

Katrina: One Year Later

Sharing Porch Tales

As part of our summer series on porches, we've been collecting your porch stories. This one is from Helen Baffes-Febry of New Orleans.

"With Red Skelton on the screen, my brother and I marveled at how my mother and father could only pass through the living room, glass of burgundy in one hand and fruit bowl in the other. How could they possibly prefer to sit outside on summer evenings with only wine and fruit and each other when so many delights came across the airways? ... With oh so many wonderful things going on -- school, friends, movies, dances, Mardi Gras -- how could anyone enjoy passing through the living room with wine and fruit with only the front porch as a destination?"

Now, she writes, after Hurricane Katrina, she goes back to that house she grew up in -- it's in the Lakeview section of the city -- and remembers those nights with a different understanding.

"Sitting in my car looking over the five-foot tall weeds that now engulf the porch, the house, the gardens and even the water line, I understand the pleasure my parents had. ... Stories not intellectual or earthshaking, but only the recollections of their day, of their memories, of their dreams. Ironically I now suffer the same fate. My husband and my son only occasionally will sit outside. But somehow I relish even being there by myself. It is, after all, my place."

After Hurricane Katrina, Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose's porch became an unofficial town hall and community center. Neighbors gathered there to sing songs, commiserate about the state of the city and "solve" New Orleans' problems.

There were so few people in Rose's neighborhood, he says, that "if you went out on your front porch and popped open a beer or brought out a cup of coffee, inevitably, people would begin to gather. So it began to happen every night. Even if I wasn't here, people would gather."

Rose's own porch -- or stoop, as they're known in New Orleans -- is a simple concrete structure, with three steps that feed onto the sidewalk. People congregated to vent, cry and laugh; he likens it to a "24-hour therapy session."

But sometimes, stoop-sitting wasn't enough.

Rose recalls a woman he calls "the New Orleans girl," about whom he writes in his book of Katrina essays, 1 Dead in Attic.

She and her fiance fled to Atlanta during Hurricane Katrina. But she had "an almost pathological need" to live in New Orleans, so the couple returned to the city. They moved in across the street from Rose and became a part of the stoop-sitting group.

They held each each other up, Rose says, until despair and darkness consumed them, and they made a suicide pact. But in the end, only the fiance followed through. After the death, a months-long run of stoop-sitting on Rose's porch came to an end.

Elsewhere in the city, the role of the porch is playing an important role in the recovery process.

In pre-Katrina days, stoop-sitting was a great pastime and tradition of New Orleans culture, Rose says. And once again, in neighborhoods around the city, people are gathering on their porches.

He says that in some parts of the city, it's almost comical: People are "sitting there, drinking beer, talking to their friends and neighbors, and you look behind them and the house is completely gutted."

"Everywhere you go, there are people out, and I think what serves as the primary therapy for most people is just telling their story."

1 Dead in Attic
By Chris Rose

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