NEW YORK — Christmas looked different for Star, Joey and their daughter, Aurora. In fact, everything was different this year.

Their Westerleigh apartment was destroyed in September as storm water from Hurricane Ida barreled through it:

Some of the damage in Star's and Joey's home on Staten Island as Hurricane Ida hit the city. NY1/Victoria Manna.

Joey was just a week out of knee replacement surgery when he was put to the test.

“This was her office; she had a desk bolted to the wall. There was so much water in the garage that the wall gave out," Joey said. "Her desk ripped off the wall and floated here, and I'm standing over here, and the water is just gushing. And she's like, 'You gotta get out,' and I said, 'I can't. I'm trapped. The desk is here.' And she said, 'You gotta get out.' And I said, 'I can't walk. I'm a week out of surgery.'"

He was able to make his way out of the basement, but the family’s irreplaceable belongings did not.

“We have all these home videos of me as a kid during my birthdays and Christmases and everything, and they're all gone, and I really wanted her to have them” Star said. “I kept my wedding gown down here. I put my wedding gown on every year for our anniversary. One of the first things I thought was, 'My dress is down here.'"

Joey’s family owns the home. The couple converted the basement to an apartment when they got married. After the storm, they spent two months in a hotel. Now, they live crammed into the top floor of their house.

Like many, they said they didn’t know they needed an additional flood insurance policy. They did receive some assistance from FEMA, but it doesn’t cover enough to make all the repairs.

“FEMA says, 'Oh, we'll give you a small business loan that you can pay back at 2%,'" Joey said. "I said, 'I can't afford that. I'm tapped as it is.'"

So far, they have a hot water heater and insulation in some of the walls thanks to volunteer and grassroots organizations that are part of the Staten Island Long Term Recovery group. Finding the resources to continue helping the family is a challenge.

“Sandy, you had grants available, you had corporations willing to step in and fund different projects," said Michael Trollo, the field manager of the Staten Island Long Term Recovery group. "We had local and national volunteer groups that were available. For various reasons, a lot of it having to do with COVID, most of the grant money and most of the money that would have been used for something like this was used for COVID.”

Star said she "can't fathom going into such crazy debt, more than we were already in." 

"Like we already are to rebuild furniture to live like we used to, and what if this happens again tomorrow?" Star asked. "It's not even like this was an act of nature. It was the fact that the city's sewer system couldn't hold that much water."

Star said she's wrapping toys donated by friends to try and give her 2-year-old daughter a memorable Christmas, but they said the new year holds new challenges and many unknowns.