An FDNY firefighter who responded to the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terror attacks -- then had to retire three years later because of the toll it took on his body -- just hit the jackpot.
Carmelo Mercado, a firefighter from Queens who rushed to Ground Zero moments after the second twin tower collapsed and spent two days aiding in search efforts, was presented with a $5 million check Thursday at the New York Lottery's offices in lower Manhattan.
Mercado said that he hit the lottery after buying two tickets earlier this year. He said the first one didn't net him a prize. He said when he saw the first digit of the winning scratcher, he had to do a double-take.
"I said, 'Holy mackerel, that looks like $5 million'," he said. "My mind went blank. I was in shock."
Mercado will take home a $3.3 million lump sum payment, after taxes, lottery officials.
"Talk about Jackie Gleason: Hamana-hamana-hamana that's a lot of money," he said. "Beautiful!"
The former firefighter says he plans to take a cruise and may buy a house in Florida. He also plans to treat his daughter.
"My daughter asked me, 'Does that mean I can get an American Girl doll?'" he said. "So I told her, 'How 'bout 10?'"
He said that the money should also help with any medical expenses that could arise.
Mercado, a 27-year veteran with the FDNY, had to retire in 2004 after being told by doctors he had developed a lung ailment from responding to Ground Zero.