Two decades ago, it was just an average night for Danny as he raced through the subway station to meet his boyfriend, Pete. However, something on the floor that caught his attention would end up being a life-changing gift.
Meet Danny Stewart and Pete Mercurio
Danny Steward and Pete Mercurio were a couple living in the vibrant city of New York. And at the time that their unique story began, Danny was 34-years-old and Pete was 32-years-old. They were living typical big-city lives.
Danny spent his days serving his community as a social worker. And his partner Pete split his time between screenwriting and web design. Things were looking good for the happy couple, and they cherished their time together and the life that they'd built since first meeting.
Their Romance Blossomed
Pete and Danny had already known each other for quite a while. They'd met three years prior through a common friend that played softball with Pete. One thing led to another and the pair found themselves madly in love. The next step to take as a couple became clear.
The two decided to move in with each other. Danny ditched his apartment in Harlem and joined his boyfriend and roommate in a humble home. From there, the love only grew. But little did they know what special surprise was soon coming their way…
Rushing Through 14th Street Station
It was a typical summer evening for the couple. Danny had run back to his old place and found himself in a great rush to meet Pete at their apartment for a dinner date. The social worker was darting through the 14th Street subway station, happy that by then, at eight in the evening, rush hour crowds had quieted down.
As he hurriedly made his way along the platform, Danny was surprised that something had managed to catch his attention. Something peculiar was on the station floor that wasn't meant to be there. But did he have time to give a second glance given the rush?
Something Caught His Eye
"I noticed on the floor, tucked up against the wall, what I thought was a baby doll," Danny remembered from the hot August night. He recalled thinking it was a strange place for a doll, but carried on. However, something inside him made him take one more look.
And thank goodness he did. "I glanced back one more time, and that's when I noticed his legs moved," Stewart said of the fateful evening. Questioning himself, he ran back down the stairs to have a closer inspection. Could it have really been what he thought?
"It Seemed Really Unreal"
His suspicions were confirmed. It wasn't a doll, like Danny had first guessed, but rather a baby wrapped up in a sweatshirt, with his little legs dangling out. "He didn't have any clothes on, he was just wrapped up in this sweatshirt," Stewart recalled. "I could tell he was a newborn. I was thinking maybe a day or so old."
Part of his umbilical cord was still there, confirming Stewart's suspicions of his incredibly young age. And as Danny crouched down in disbelief and looked at the baby from head to toe, the infant looked right back at him. But Stewart's concerns grew even more as the baby whimpered out when being touched on the head.
Danny Cried for Help
Worried for the infant's safety, Danny yelled out for someone to call 911, but his cries fell on deaf ears. Despite the hustle and bustle on the platform, one lady stopped to help but wasn't so helpful because of a language barrier. Danny tried to explain the situation, but it was no use.
The two were totally lost in translation. "I think she probably thought I may have been a little deranged," Danny remembered from his frantic actions. With no bystander willing or able to help, Stewart realized that the baby's life was in his hands. He had to act fast.
He Needed to Call 911
Unlike today, Danny was without a cell phone and scared to injure the baby by picking him up. So he bolted upstairs to the nearest payphone and called 911. After getting ahold of an operator and confirming his location, he went back to the stranded baby.
"I'm sure it was just a few minutes, but time was standing still as my heart was racing," Danny remembered. He was suddenly filled with worry that the cops thought it was a prank. Desperate for help, Danny raced to make another phone call. He had to make sure he would be taken seriously.
"I Don't Think the Police Believe Me"
"Once again, I blurted out, 'I found a baby. I don't think the police believe me so call them please right now," Danny said. To say Pete was shocked was an understatement. But despite the alarming news, he was certainly relieved to hear his partner's voice.
Pete had been anxiously waiting for Danny's arrival and was concerned by how long it was taking. But the relief washed away when he realized how grave the situation was. "Danny doesn't joke, he wouldn't say something if it wasn't true," Pete explained.
Complete and Utter Shock
After getting the necessary details from his partner, Pete sprinted out of his apartment and raced to meet Danny at the subway station as the sun went down. He arrived just as the police were taking the abandoned baby to the hospital for further examination. And after Danny gave his statement, all the emergency personnel cleared out.
Suddenly, Pete and Danny felt like they were the only two people in all of New York City. They were in complete and utter shock about how the evening had transpired. How did a typical summer's date night turn to this? They couldn't even put it into words.
"You're Going to Be Connected to That Baby"
Danny and Pete stood in silence together for what felt like hours, until Pete turned to his partner. "You know, you're going to be connected to that baby in some way for the rest of your life," he said. Danny was perplexed by what his boyfriend had just told him.
Pete continued to explain. "Well, eventually, this child is going to learn of the night he was found and he may want to find the person who discovered him. Maybe there's a way that we can find out where he ends up and send a birthday gift every year on this date?" Little did they know how intertwined they'd become.
Danny's Story Went Viral
By the time the couple awoke in the morning, Danny was all over the national press. His name was plastered on what felt like every channel on television, and requests for interviews started rolling in. "Danny Stewart was the Good Samaritan that found the seven-pound baby," the TV read as Danny shared the night's events.
Danny had no problem at all telling the story of August 28th, but his overall priority was checking up on the baby. Danny and Pete inquired at the hospital for further information, but no one was able to help. Would this be the end of their connection with the infant?
Life Returned to Normal
With no news on the baby, life returned to relative normalcy for Pete and Danny. Their day-to-day was occupied with work and busy social lives, but it was suddenly interrupted once more when Danny received an invitation to make a statement about the events of August 28th.
He accepted the opportunity and showed up at the Administration for Children's Services proceeding that took place later that year in December. He was only required to make his statement but requested to stay for the meeting's entirety. To his surprise, the judge addressed him towards the end.
"Would You Be Interested in Adopting This Baby?"
The judge began explaining, "in instances where we have a baby that has been abandoned, we want to place them in pre-adoptive foster care as quickly as possible." That all made sense to Danny, considering his background in social work. But what came out next from the judge's mouth took him by surprise.
"Would you be interested in adopting this baby?" the judge asked nonchalantly. Danny was absolutely speechless. Truthfully, it hadn't seemed like an option on the table for him, but his friends had asked similar questions in the weeks that followed the subway incident.
Danny Finally Answered
"Yes, but I don't think it's that easy," Danny managed to answer. "Well, it can be," the judge responded with a smile. Stewart couldn't believe what he was hearing. "I had not had thoughts of adopting," he remembered. "But at the same time... I did feel connected," he reflected.
"I felt like this was not even an opportunity, it was a gift. And how can you say no to this gift?" Danny rattled to the emotions of his decision. But he realized he'd made a huge commitment without speaking to his boyfriend first. And what would Pete have to say?
Danny stepped into the courthouse hallway to call his boyfriend. And Pete's first reaction wasn't as open-minded to that of his partner. "My gut reaction was just to say, 'No - no, you're not, you're not interested. Go back right now into the courtroom and tell her, no, you made a mistake. Just tell her no,'" Pete remembered.
Danny was shocked to hear that his partner wasn't as enthusiastic or as on-board. But Stewart felt certain of his decision. In the following days of the hearing, things escalated for the couple. What Danny claimed were "tense conversations," Pete saw as "heated arguments."
"You're Choosing a Baby Over Our Relationship?"
Pete wasn't prepared to take on this major adjustment on such short notice. "I didn't want my life to change. I was happy the way we were and this was just going to change everything," he hesitated. Mercurio was also upset at how irresponsible Danny was to agree to it in the first place.
In Pete's eyes, they had no money, no space, and still shared the apartment with a third roommate, yet Danny had still agreed to the adoption. "How could you say yes, without consulting me first?" But Danny was ready to be a dad, even if that meant breaking up. "You're choosing a baby over our relationship?" Pete asked him.
Things Got Ugly
A break-up was the last thing Danny wanted, but he was also determined to adopt the baby. "I would like us to be a family, I'd like us to do this together," he pleaded to Pete. "But if you're not ready, I understand and I'm going to do it without you." The couple reached a boiling point and things got ugly.
Looking back on this tense time, Pete felt terrible about the "awful things" he said to his partner. At one low point, Mercurio spitefully told Danny "good luck being a single parent in New York." But despite the harsh exchanges, Danny was able to convince Pete to visit the baby at his temporary foster home.
An "Instant Wave of Warmth" Washed Over Pete
The two made their way over where the baby boy was staying and were confronted with his subpar living conditions. The infant was covered in diaper rash and looked as though he was in physical discomfort. Danny picked the baby up for a cuddle. "Remember me?" he cooed.
Next it was Pete's turn to hold him. And that's when everything changed. Upon their first cuddle, Pete felt an "instant wave of warmth" wash over him, a feeling he wasn't expecting at all. It was at that moment that Danny felt they had a chance of being a family of three.
Pete Changed His Mind
"The baby squeezed my finger with his entire hand so hard," Pete remembered. "He was just staring up at me and I was just looking at him, and it was almost like he found a pressure point in my finger that just opened up my heart to my head and showed me in that moment that I could be one of his parents, one of his dads."
With Pete on board, the couple was finally able to start the adoption process together. A long road laid ahead of them, but both Danny and Pete knew that they wanted to have the baby in their life. The following weeks were consumed by social worker inspections and in-depth interviews. But would the couple check all the boxes?
They Were Granted a Trial Visit
As the holidays fast approached, Danny and Pete attended their scheduled court hearing on December 20th. To the eager couple's relief, a trial visit was approved for Christmas. But Danny and Pete weren't expecting to get the all-clear so quickly. They weren't even close to ready to host the baby at their place.
The inexperienced couple was desperate for the visit to go well so that they could prove their worth to the judge as prospective parents. In need of help, Pete and Danny reached out to Mr. and Mrs. Mercurio for help. But would Pete's parents be willing to help?
How Did the Family React?
To Pete and Danny's complete and utter relief, the Mercurios were eager and willing to help. They were both so supportive of the idea of the couple adopting the baby boy. The parents helped turn Pete and Danny's apartment into a nursery in was felt like mere hours.
And one aspect of the prospective adoption brought tears to Mrs. Mercurio's eyes. Pete and Danny wanted to name the baby Kevin, in honor of Pete's brother that passed away at birth with the same name. "Their baby Kevin [came] back to them again as a grandchild from their gay son," Pete explained of his intentions.
A Christmas Visit Turned Into Forever
The couple spent their holidays living as a family of three and loved every minute of it. In fact, the "magical" visit went so well that the couple requested to continue caring for Kevin as the adoption process ran its course. But it would take another year for it to become official.
The process was derailed by the tragic events of 9/11. Fortunately, the three of them were unharmed during the events, however, it took a while for the court proceedings to resume. But in the end, the papers were signed, and Pete, Danny, and Kevin were an official family.
Creating Special Memories
The Stewart-Mercurio family of three enjoyed every minute of Kevin's early years. From a young age, the only child took a liking to books and wanted to be read to constantly. Pete got his creative juices flowing and made his son a scrapbook about his adoption story. It quickly became Kevin's favorite.
The young boy requested to hear the story every night, sometimes multiple times. And as he learned to read, Pete and Danny would catch him flipping through it on his own time. But at the time, he didn't even know it was about him. Once he found out, Kevin loved the story even more, taking it to school to show his friends.
Papa Pete and Daddy Danny Made it Official
By the time that Kevin reached the age of ten, Danny and Pete had been together for well over a decade. The loving couple were inspired to take their relationship to the next level, following the legalization of gay marriage in New York State. They decided to ask their son what he thought.
Kevin was over the moon and suggested that the same judge that presided over the adoption officiate the wedding. The judge enthusiastically agreed. "This woman, the very reason we're a family, is once again, the very reason we're getting married," Danny explained. "It was like coming full circle."
Kevin's Happy Childhood
In the years that followed, Kevin enjoyed an active, happy, and loving upbringing. He lived a life full of activity and passion, having danced with the National Dance Institute from the age of nine to fourteen. He also took a liking to sports and music.
His dads thought the absolute world of him from the second he became their son. "Kevin's always been a respectful kid," Pete shared with pride. "He's empathetic and kind... He's a private person, but also a quiet leader." Pete and Danny couldn't get enough of their precious child.
A Tight-Knit Family
Pete, Danny, and Kevin were all attached at the hip. And despite the hustle and bustle of daily life, the parents made a conscious effort to enjoy quality time as a family as well. They treasured the opportunity to show their son national parks, like Yosemite.
The fun continued in New York, too. Sure, the three of them enjoyed activities in nature like kayaking, but they found a way to enjoy life in the big city as well. The three were diehard Mets fans and enjoyed the tradition of attending games. But parenting wasn't always a walk in the park. Did Danny and Pete have any regrets?
Was It All Worth It?
Despite the ups and downs of raising a kid, neither Pete nor Danny would trade it for the world. "I can't imagine my life if it didn't turn out this way," Danny reflected. And Pete couldn't agree more. "I didn't know that this level of deep love existed in the world until my son came into my life."
At the time of publication, Danny was 55-years-old and his husband was 52-years-old. And the years of parenting experience had made a lasting impact. "It has changed my whole world view, my perspective, my whole lens," Danny reflected. And how did the experience turn out for Kevin?
Kevin's All Grown Up
By the time of writing, Kevin was living the typical life of a 20-year-old college student. He enrolled at Swarthmore College for a degree in mathematics and computer science. That's right: Danny and Pete let their precious baby fly the coop to study in a completely different state!
The young adult maintained the love of fitness instilled in him as a child. He's even competed in marathons. But with such a tall and athletic build, it was no surprise Kevin lived a life on the go. He grew up to be over six feet tall, towering over his dads.
Sharing Their Story with the World
Danny and Pete knew their journey into fatherhood was a unique story, and they wanted to share it with others around them. But what medium would be best to tell the family's beautiful tale? Well, Pete ended up inspired by the scrapbook he'd made for Kevin all those years before.
Pete ended up writing a children's book titled Our Subway Baby. Through beautiful illustrations, it told the special series of events that brought Kevin into his and Danny's lives. Pete wanted to make sure the moral of the story was as clear as day: "where there is love, anything is possible."
And just like Pete's book, the happy dads were quick to utilize their social media platforms to share similar messages of positivity and inclusivity. The couple committed their lives to advocate for gay rights and adoption rights, knowing just how vital they were to the formation of their family.
But it's not all political, all the time. Danny and Pete also share snapshots and memories with their humble following. In addition to the spontaneous joys of empty nesting. You can follow their journey on Instagram at @danny_stewart65 and @petemercurionyc.