Twenty-one years ago, a gay couple adopted an infant after finding him stranded in a New York City subway station. One of the dads just published a children’s book about the unique way they became a family, and now they are about to celebrate their son’s 21st birthday.
In August 2000, Danny Stewart was on his way to meet his partner, Pete Mercurio, for dinner when he paused on the southbound platform of the A, C, and E trains at 14th street around 8:30 p.m.
Stewart, a social worker, noticed an odd-looking bundle placed up against a wall in the 14th Street subway station in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Much to Stewart’s surprise and concern, he discovered a newborn baby, with some of his umbilical cord still attached.
“I glanced down and saw what I thought was just a baby doll. His upper body and his head were wrapped in a dark sweatshirt. But as I started to go up the stairs, he started to move, so I knew he was alive.”Danny Stewart via Daily Mail
Stewart rushed to a payphone to notify the police. He also called Mercurio, who arrived at the scene around the same time as law enforcement did. According to the Daily Mail, the couple knew that this baby was going to change their lives forever. Mercurio told Stewart, “A child can’t just fall into your life this way and disappear.”
The couple agreed to try to keep track of the baby, expecting to keep in touch with the child by sending him birthday cards in the future. Adoption had not crossed their minds yet.
The next day, Stewart tried to see the child at the hospital. However, he was unable to see him because only family was allowed, and a pediatrician informed Stewart that the child would be placed in foster care.
Later, Stewart was contacted by the Administration for Children’s Services. They had asked him to be present at a family court hearing for the baby he found in December 2000.
While he was speaking with the judge, the judge had an interesting proposition for Stewart—had he considered adopting this child? She explained to Stewart that she was authorized to expedite an adoption when a child is abandoned.
Stewart was stunned, but he accepted the offer on-the-spot, before he could even consult with his partner.
“I did feel connected, I felt like this was not even an opportunity, it was a gift, and how can you say no to this gift.”Danny Stewart via Daily Mail
Mercurio was outraged at first, urging Stewart to tell the judge he changed his mind. He insisted that the couple could not afford to raise a child and pointed out that they still lived with a roommate. For a week, the couple argued over Stewart’s decision. They almost broke up, but Stewart was steadfast in his choice and insisted that he was adopting the baby whether his boyfriend wanted to be a part of it or not.
Eventually, Mercurio agreed to tag along for a foster home visit, and as soon as he held the baby, everything changed.
“The baby squeezed my finger with his entire hand so hard. 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.”Pete Mercurio via Daily Mail
The dads decided to name the boy Kevin, and they welcomed him into their home around Christmas.
Mercurio and Stewart were able to get approval to keep Kevin as foster parents, and the adoption was final in December 2002. When Kevin got older, his parents created an illustrated storybook for him, detailing his unique story. Kevin loved it so much, he brought it to school for show-and-tell.
In 2011, when same-sex marriage was legalized in New York state, Kevin suggested that his parents get married by the same judge that had brought them all together.
“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.”Danny Stewart via Daily Mail
Two decades later, Kevin, 20, is a college student studying math and computer science. His hobbies include playing piano and guitar, running marathons, and dancing with the National Dance Institute. As a family, they love traveling to national parks together. Last year, Mercurio, who is a playwright and a web designer, published Our Subway Baby, a version of Kevin’s favorite childhood storybook.