A family that ran a beloved Seaside Heights, N.J., attraction lost their business in this week's boardwalk inferno, but not the will to rebuild — yet again.
"We're Jersey strong here in Seaside and we're going to have to rebuild and we're going to have to put everything back together like we did after Sandy," Bob Stewart, owner of the Carousel Arcade, told Brian Williams as he anchored the NBC Nightly News from the devastated community on Friday.
"There's no giving up here, you know," added his son, Kevin Stewart. "We're a bunch of fighters on this boardwalk. Scrapping every dollar we can make. And when something bad like this happens, there's no turning back.
"You gotta make it happen."
A lot has happened on the boardwalk in the last year. First came the storm surges of Sandy, which pushed a rollercoaster into the sea, flooded Kevin Stewart's bar and destroyed most of his father's arcade.
The Stewarts, along with so many other boardwalk families, pulled together and rebuilt in time for the Seaside Heights boardwalk to open for business this summer.
His carousel stood as a symbol of renewal and resilience — the embodiment of the post-Sandy slogan "Stronger than the Storm."
"So many people all summer long came and said 'Oh, the carousel, so happy to have!' Everybody loved that carousel," the elder Stewart said.
"Right after Labor Day I thought, you know, I got this here. It's going to be all right."
Then came Thursday's fire — cause still unknown — that started at or near a frozen custard shop and soon engulfed everything around it.
Sandy had ruined two-thirds of Stewart's arcade. The fire showed even less mercy.
"As you can see, it's all gone," Bob Stewart said.
"I've been up here on the boardwalk 49 years and in this past year, I've seen devastation like I've never seen," he added.
His kids grew up on the boardwalk, and met his wife there.
"This is the love of my life. You know, I never worked a day in my life because I worked on the boardwalk and I say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life -- that's me," he said.
"I used to kid my kids and say, when I die, pop a couple of boards up and slide me underneath the boardwalk because I love the boardwalk."
But first, Stewart said, he'll be working to help Seaside rise from the ashes.
"We can do this," he said. "We can do this."
First published September 13 2013, 4:45 PM