When Danny Stewart saw the small bundle on the floor of the New York subway station in Chelsea on August 28, 2000, he at first thought it was a doll. Little did he know he had just found the start of his future family. At the time, Stewart, 34, was hurrying to meet his partner, Pete Mercurio, 32, for dinner, but a fateful glance back told him it wasn’t a doll, but a living baby. According to the BBC, Stewart only wanted to make sure the baby was safe when he called the police that fateful night, but it turned out to be the start of something far more rewarding for everyone involved as the abandoned baby is now a loved son in college with two beaming fathers.
“It seemed really unreal, the whole situation, and at that point I was trying to alert people to what was happening, but I couldn't get anybody's attention,” Stewart recalled of the evening back in 2020. “He didn't have any clothes on, he was just wrapped up in this sweatshirt. His umbilical cord was still partially intact, so I could tell he was a newborn. I was thinking maybe a day or so old.”
Stewart dutifully called the police from a pay phone, although he had to place a second call to Mercurio explaining the situation and requesting his help in contacting authorities who were tardy in their arrival. Later, as social workers took possession of the baby and transported him to protective services, Mercurio made a prescient comment to Stewart.
“You know, you're going to be connected to that baby in some way for the rest of your life,” Mercurio recalled telling Stewart, explaining how the baby would most likely want to find out who found and saved 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?”
The pair didn’t need to wait very long to stay connected with the baby, as Stewart was called to testify about the discovery that December in family court. What the partnered couple didn’t know was the judge was part of a new program trying to expedite placement of abandoned children into foster care. The judge, who wishes to remain anonymous, later told Mercurio she knew babies “needed a connection to someone” and thought Stewart seemed to fit the bill better than anyone else at the time.
“It was almost as simple as that,” Mercurio said. “She saw a connection that was already made, and had a hunch that it would be the right connection.”
Even though the judge would eventually be proven right, Mercurio wasn’t initially receptive to the idea of becoming a parent. The couple were already having problems with their relationship, and he was angry he hadn’t been consulted about the decision.
“I’m going ahead with this whether you’re on board or not,” Mercurio recalled Stewart telling him after much heated disagreement.
“Good luck being a single parent in New York,” he remembered snapping back.
All his opposition melted away, though, when Mercuriou saw the young baby in temporary care, suffering from a painfully sore and spreading case of diaper rash.
“The baby squeezed my finger with his entire hand so hard,” he emotionally recalled. “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.”
The trio have been a family ever since. The pair named their new son Kevin, after Mercurio’s older brother who died in childbirth. A little over 10 years later, the trio were reunited with the judge who helped create their family, when they reached out and asked her to officiate their wedding.
“This woman, the very reason we're a family, is once again, the very reason we're getting married. It was like coming full circle," he said.
Kevin is now in college studying mathematics. His fathers describe his as “funny” and “respectful.” He has run numerous marathons and taught himself to play the guitar and piano. They also paint him as a loving person who has changed their lives for the better.
"I can't imagine my life if it didn't turn out this way,” Stewart said. "My life has become much more enriched and full.”
Mercurio, who has written a book about the experience entitled, Our Subway Baby, couldn’t agree more.
“I did not know that this level of deep love existed in the world until my son came into my life,” echoed Mercurio.