- Posted September 13, 2013 by
Seaside Park, New Jersey
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Boardwalk Blaze Leaves Seaside Residents in Daze
- nsaidi, CNN iReport producer
In a scene eerily reminiscent of the national event mourned just a day prior, residents of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park left their homes in mid-afternoon to find ominous black smoke billowing out to sea from the direction of the still-recovering boardwalk area.
It didn't take long for the flames to spread from stand to stand, and locals soon drew as close as they dared on the beach. Quickly engulfed was the Funtown Pier, one of the areas that had finally begun to reintroduce their usual repertoire of rides and attractions. The one-time log flume stand quickly charred and collapsed while flames threatened the popular local bar restaurant The Sawmill.
But in a strange dissonance of images, the horror of the blaze seemed offset by a kind of carnival atmosphere. Anyone with a smart phone or tablet was recording the event while small children played in the sand, blissfully ignorant of the carnage taking place behind them.
Jersey Shore residents as far north as Deal and Belmar called in to local radio station 101.5 FM to report being able to smell the burning from their locations 45 minutes north up the coast. Toms River onlookers were drawn to the entrance of the Tunney-Mathis Bridge, staring across in slack-jawed disbelief as the black smoke reached high enough to obscure one of the few remaining skyline landmarks- the Funtown Pier "Tower of Fear" spire. By 7:45 PM EST, onlookers expressed hope- weather reports were showing a change in the winds on the way, with possible rainfall not far behind.
But it was too late for the Funtown Pier. Like the SuperStorm Sandy victim, the Jet Star roller coaster, the Funtown sign seemed to symbolize the tragic end to the piece of boardwalk history. And just shortly before 8pm, the sign collapsed to the sand in a smoldering heap. Cries of alarm and shouts of surprise filled the beach as the crowd watched firefighters attempt to redouble their efforts.
One child, leaving with his mother, asked when they could come back. He had played in the sand while his mother took pictures. She said she wasn't sure, that the boardwalk needed to be fixed.
"When is that gonna be done?"
The mother took him by the hand and said simply, "I don't know."
In Seaside, it seems like everyone is left wondering when things will go back to normal. But like that mother, no one seems to know when that will be.