Patti Kletz, a Hillsborough resident, returned to her family's summer house in Ortley Beach, which was filled with mud and mold. Most of the contents needed to be scrapped and her brother, Dean Siegel, said the interior needed to taken down to the studs.
However, they recovered a photo of their dad from 1945 when he entered the Navy, as well as his flag from a home with buckling paneling and furniture tossed about by flood waters from Hurricane Sandy.
Siegel drove from Vermont as soon as he heard people were being permitted to return to their property which their father gave them.
"It's still there. It needs to be gutted, but it's still there," said Kletz, who was among the 700 people who rode the bus to visit properties in parts of Ortley Beach and Lavallette.
The extent of the devastation has surprised people, despite seeing pictures of the damage.
"They went over thinking one thing and they came back thinking differently," said Sgt. Shaun O'Keeffe, who was manning the FEMA center with other officers -- some of whom are working while dealing with their own property losses. "They can see what we're up against. The people of Toms River have been great considering all of this."
The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at Bellcrest Plaza on Fischer Boulevard has been where residents have boarded 12 school buses to return to their properties.
Kelly Barr, an Ortley Beach resident, said she didn't lose any property since her apartment with her sister was on the second floor, but the bagel shop below her apartment on Route 35 had seven feet of water. She spent her 30th birthday on Chadwick Beach Island during the height of Sandy and said, "It felt like I was living in a houseboat."
Catherine's on the Ocean, where she worked, washed away with the Surf Club.
"There is nothing I can do now," said Barr, who is staying with friends in Point Pleasant Beach.
"I love the way New Jersey has pulled together," Barr said. "There is a lot more to be done, but what they have done so far is remarkable and gives us hope for the future."