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Twelve years ago, a man walked out of his subway station and found an abandoned child, a newborn he would later adopt. Now that man is talking to News 4 about the day that changed his life, his partner's life -- and the life of that child. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.
To understand how Danny Stewart, Peter Mercurio and their son Kevin became a family of three, you have to go back more than 12 years to the 14th Street A/C/E subway station in Chelsea.
"As I was leaving the subway, I glanced over to my left and thought I saw a doll," Stewart told NBC 4 New York in a recent interview. "I continued up the stairs because I didn't think anything of it, but I glanced back at the floor and I saw legs moving."
Stewart quickly discovered it was no doll, but a newborn baby bundled up in a sweatshirt, his umbilical cord still attached. After calling 911, Stewart's next call was to his partner.
"Danny is a really calm person so when he called me frantic, I knew something was wrong," said Mercurio. "I literally felt his heart beat through the line and the panic in his voice."
By the time Mercurio reached the subway station, the NYPD had already responded. Police named the baby Daniel "ACE" Doe, because it was Danny who found him at the A-C-E train station that day in August 2000. A citywide search began for the baby's mother, covered by local news stations including NBC 4 New York.
Three months later, no one had come forward and Stewart found himself at a family court hearing. As he explained to the judge how he found the baby, the judge suddenly asked him if he would be interesting in adopting the baby.
"I think everyone in the courtroom, their jaws dropped, everyone was quiet," said Stewart. "Everyone was looking at me, and I said, 'Yes, but it's not that easy.' And she said, 'Well, it can be.'"
Stewart and Mercurio had only been dating for three years, and they had not discussed having a family. Gay marriage wasn't legal then, either, so they weren't married. But Stewart said at that moment, he just knew the right thing to do.
"I thought, 'Maybe this is destiny, maybe this is divine intervention. This is a gift we're given and how can we say no to a gift?'" said Stewart.
At first, the couple thought they would have months to prepare for the baby's arrival because of the mountain of bureaucracy and paperwork they had to go through, but the judge surprised them once again. A week after the initial court hearing, and three days before Christmas, the judge asked them if they would like to care for them for the holiday weekend.
"And he's been with us ever since," said Mercurio. "It was the best Christmas present ever. It was amazing."
They named the baby Kevin and eventually became his official adoptive parents. The judge that first proposed the adoption later married Stewart and Mercurio.
Kevin is now 12 years old and almost as tall as his dads.
He told NBC 4 New York that he wonders what his life would have been like if his dad hadn't found him.
“I feel very lucky,” he said.
It's something his parents often think about as well.
"It's something that's changed our lives forever, and we're better people for it, said Mercurio. "And we love him to death."
"I can't imagine life without him," said Stewart.