I remember standing at the corner on 23rd Street in Surf City waiting for a school bus that never came. After while we walked up to the beach and saw oceanfront homes collapsing.
Most of the damage, though, was north of Surf City, through North Beach and Harvey Cedars and Loveladies. There was total devastation there.
The National Guard was stationed on the Surf City-North Beach border for weeks, keeping out potential looters.
As kids, this was high adventure - sneaking by the National Guard into this vast wasteland. The entire contents of houses scattered everywhere. At the time it seemed so cool. Seeing how other people lived through what they had lost.
I will say that while the National Guard couldn't keep us away, the presence of men in uniforms carrying guns kept away any thoughts of actually taking any of those belongings. Our house strangely had no damage.
The water never reached us, even though we were on the ocean block, so it was hard for us as kids to understand the hardship, and to realize that this was the most devastating event we'd likely ever see on the island. It wasn't until years later that I even started to grasp what it meant for so many to lose so much.