Hours after Hurricane Sandy blew through Jersey, Debbie Busse of West Keansburg grabbed her dog, camera and son and went to investigate the Keansburg Amusement Park.
"I had heard Keansburg had washed away and I had to go see," said Busse. "It's where I grew up. I have pictures of me on those rides, from when I was young. And I have pictures of my kids on those same rides."
At first glance, it was a scene too chaotic to digest. She said she felt "thrown off" by the disarray. Bumper cars had traveled down the boardwalk. The Tilt-a-Whirl cars had spun across the asphalt courtyard. The arcades were caked with slimy, slippery beach muck.
Instead of the smells of Villa Pizza, french fries with vinegar or zeppoles, the wind carried a muddy odor of decay. The Beachway buzz was gone, and instead there was a strange stillness.
As she walked along Beachway, she and her son Brian peered into the abandoned arcades where some of the prizes had miraculously survived. They saw an adult man, arms full, carrying boxes of prizes like appliances. He told them, with the heavy hint of conspiracy, 'There's stuff on the shelves, if you want it.'"
The boardwalk area has since been closed off by police.
"For people around here, this place holds so many memories, and now they're all washed away," said Busse.