National Park, NJ
April 29, 2007
National Park, NJ (Population 3223), is a small borough on the Delaware River with a deceptive name. It's a normal town in Gloucester County, completely enclosed by West Deptford Township and the river, that has no affiliation with the National Park Service.
Before National Park was formally incorporated in 1902, its land was the site of Fort Mercer. Along with Fort Mifflin, directly across the river in South Philly, Fort Mercer was created to protect the city from British attack during the Revolutionary War. The famous Battle of Red Bank, a decisive Continental Army victory, took place at the current location of the Red Bank Battlefield County Park.
The park is a great place to take a walk along the isolated shoreline and feel completely alone, despite the city in full view, large container ships passing on the river, and low-flying planes landing right across the river at Philadelphia International. My experience at the park was pleasant, but also pretty strange.
The Strange Event
I arrived at the park at about 8:30 on a Sunday morning. I was joined mostly by families, dog walkers, and especially early-bird retirees, all quietly enjoying the good weather after a mercilessly wintry April.
My camera was still away in its case as I walked along the shoreline, getting a feel for the park and trying to decide where to begin. I said good morning to a small older man enjoying the view of the river (shown on the left in this photo), and he started to speak to me. He was soft-spoken at first, but eventually I figured out what he was saying: "There's a heart over there." HUH? He was pointing about ten yards away at a red object that had washed onto the sand a few feet from where the waves were breaking.
I admit to thinking he was a little crazy, delusional, or otherwise confused, and although I continued walking in the direction of the mysterious object and glanced at it as I passed, I didn't pay too much attention to it. From that position, it could have been anything, such as a dead fish.
My photography session began as I walked further down the shoreline. After about 45 minutes of going up and then back, I returned to the park to see a significant police presence surrounding the site of the beached heart. The reporter in me immediately regretted not having taken a closer look and, of course, a few photos. I didn't personally speak to any of the police - they were too busy isolating a crime scene the size of a plane crash site - but other people at the park later informed me that the police confirmed that the object was a human heart and lung. I guess I'm the jerk for thinking the old guy was strange
If you're disappointed that I didn't photograph the gore, get your fix from this washed-up deer carcass, the fourth photo from the bottom, below. In person, its appearance and smell made my stomach turn - just a little.