At 8:00pm on August 28th, 2000, it was a typical New York frenzy in the New York City’s 14th Street subway station, in Manhattan’s Chelsea district.
34 year-old social worker Danny Stewart had left his Harlem sublet to meet with his partner of three years, 32 year-old playwright and web designer Pete Mercurio, for dinner.
And he was late.
As he was about to reach the stairs to leave the station, he saw what he thought was a toy on the ground in a corner, alone.
“I noticed on the floor tucked up against the wall, what I thought was a baby doll.
I glanced back one more time, and that’s when I noticed his legs moved.”
He rushed over to discover a baby boy.
“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.”
Who? What? Why?
He was trying to wrap his mind about it all.
And then he picked up the baby.
“He did look up and I stroked his head and then he whimpered a little bit. 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.”
This was a time before everyone had a cell phone, so he fished out a couple of quarters from his pocket, and got into a pay phone.
First was to 911.
The second was to Pete.
“Once again, I blurted out, ‘I found a baby. I don’t think the police believe me so call them please right now.'”
Pete rushed out to get to the subway station and got there at the same time the police were leaving with the baby.
The authorities, who named the baby Daniel “ACE” Doe, (after Danny who found him, and it was at the A-C-E train station ), took him away to the hospital.
“I remember turning to Danny and saying to him on the sidewalk as the police car was driving away, ‘You know, you’re going to be connected to that baby in some way for the rest of your life,'” says Pete.
“Danny was like, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘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?'”
Said Danny, “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?'”
Even with the news coverage and investigations, by December, with no trace of the mother, Danny went to court to testify of the events of the discovery.
And that’s when he met a remarkable judge, who has chosen to remain anonymous.
She was part of a fairly new program that was being implemented, that made the adoption process quicker and less taxing.
During the proceedings, she asked Danny, in front of all in court, if he wanted to adopt Daniel.
“Mr. Stewart, I want to let you know what’s happening here, 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.
Would you be interested in adopting this baby?”
Danny was taken aback, and quiet for a moment.
“Yes, but I don’t think it’s that easy.”
The judge smiled.
“Well, it can be.”
“[She] said that all babies needed a connection to somebody. And so when Danny was testifying in the courtroom about finding the baby, in her mind his most serious connection in the world was to Danny, so why not just ask him?” Mercurio told the BBC. “It was almost as simple as that. She saw a connection that was already made, and had a hunch that it would be the right connection.”
Pete wasn’t ready and balked at the idea, and the couple had a turbulent couple of days.
That is until they visited Daniel in foster care.
Said Pete, “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.”
And one week after that court appearance and three days before Christmas, the judge offered them the chance to take the baby home, to be fostered by them.
They agreed and made haste to turn their apartment into a home for a baby.
And when Daniel moved in, his name was changed to become Kevin, in honor of a stillborn sibling Pete’s parents lost when he himself was a child…and he never left the home and hearts of Daniel and Pete.
“And he’s been with us ever since,” said Pete. “It was the best Christmas present ever. It was amazing.”
One year later, Kevin became their son.
Flash forward ahead eleven years.
It’s now 2011.
Gay marriage is now, finally, thankfully, legal.
And whilst walking Kevin to school, the youngster asked Peter, who he calls ‘Papi,’ and Danny, who he calls ‘Daddy,’……..
“Don’t judges perform ceremonies? Why don’t you try to contact the judge who finalized my adoption?”
I composed a query letter and e-mailed it to the Manhattan family court. Within hours, a court attorney called to say that of course the judge remembered us, and she was thrilled by the idea of officiating our marriage.
A month later, back in family court after 12 years, Kevin reached out to shake the judge’s hand.
“Can I give you a hug?” she asked. After they separated, the judge asked Kevin about school and his interests, hobbies, and friends. When we finally remembered the purpose of the visit, Danny and I moved into position to exchange vows. I reflected on the improbable circumstances that delivered us to this moment. We weren’t supposed to be there, two men, with a son we had never dreamed of by our side, getting married by a woman who had changed and enriched our lives more than she would ever know. But there we were, thanks to a fateful discovery and a judicious hunch.
Said Danny, “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.”
It’s 2021 and Kevin is now 20.
“I’m very loved.
I feel very lucky.”
Says Pete, ”We love him to death.
“You know sometimes in life you have to say yes
And we said ‘yes’ to becoming this baby’s parents and it was the best ‘yes’ decision we have ever made in our lives.”
Added Danny, “I can’t imagine my life if it didn’t turn out this way.
My life has become much more enriched and full. It has changed my world view, my perspective, my whole lens.
I mean, deep down when you strip away all those layers, all those labels, we’re all human beings and were all connected by certain things that we need in our lives.
And to the judge…whoever you may be….you are one insightful, courageous and beautiful sister.
A Thank You to Holgar ( very much! ) for sharing this sweet story with me, so i could share it with you.