Having been a teenager in the 80's, movies like Fast Times At Ridgemont High spoke to me. The mall? It was everything. It was an indoor city unto itself where teens gathered, hung out, shopped for what were once called records, dated, saw movies, had lunch, worked, and practically lived. As online shopping has caught on more and more and malls began to struggle, one in particular became the saddest mall in New Jersey.

That was Burlington Center, a mall on Route 541 in Burlington that stands empty. Deserted. The only thing that remains is a Sears anchor store, now anchoring nothing but an echoing relic, and even that dying Sears is in the process of closing down by September. About 7 months ago someone took a walk through this nearly shuttered mall and the resulting video you can watch is downright creepy. 7 months ago you could count the stores remaining open on just one hand. Today these are even gone. The video was done just weeks before they closed the mall itself to walkthroughs. You then had to enter that Sears from the parking lot. As you take the walk through this abandoned mall you get the feeling of the world having stopped. It's like the setup to some horror movie. Perhaps a reboot of 28 Days Later.

It wasn't always this way. Burlington Center once thrived. It opened in the early 80's. It had 100 retail stores. Restaurants. Three major anchor stores. It was an American success story. By the 2000's things were already changing, like the advent of online shopping I mentioned earlier. In 2007 a terrible day of gang violence brought about a temporary closure of Burlington Center. Questions arose and lingered about the mall's safety. The mall was sold in 2012 for less than half of what it had been valued at in the 90's. The new company couldn't make a go of it.

Now it sits. Empty and haunting like some dark monument to our teenage years. As you watch this POV video and walk this empty mall, you pass buckets that catch the rain from a roof in disrepair. You pass empty windows, gated storefronts, an abandoned food court. When you occasionally pass a lighted store or a wandering customer, you wonder why they're even there. It feels post-apocalyptic. Which is dramatic. After all, it's only a mall.

The thing is, it's not though. It's not only a mall. It's the way everything was. It's how we did things. Now that's all changing. So it's not the mall that feels empty. It's us.

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