Life can often throw curveballs your way, and it’s up to you to decide how you react to them. You can either embrace them full-on or run away from them. But it often takes time to truly understand whether you made the right decision or not. It can take six months, six years, or even six decades – but in the end, only you know whether your choice of fight or flight worked in your favor.
For Danny Stewart and his partner Pete Mercurio, their curveball came their way in the year 2000. When Danny stumbled upon an abandoned baby in the New York subway, he had a choice to make; he could either run away from the situation and hope that someone else dealt with the unusual situation, or he could choose to help. In the end, the decision that he chose changed his life, his partner’s life, and the baby’s life.
On August 28, 2000, Danny Traveled on the New York City Subway to Meet His Partner Peter for Dinner
This incredible story takes us back to around 8 pm on the night of August 28, 2000. For Danny Stewart, this night started just like any other. The social worker had finished work and had planned to meet his writer and graphic designer partner, Peter Mercurio, for dinner. So, he had hopped on a New York City subway train and headed south.
At this point, Danny and Peter had been together for three years and were happily living together – just the two of them. They often liked to explore new restaurants and try new food together, so this night and this subway ride weren’t out of the ordinary. But little did Danny know that this night would completely transform their whole existence and that their casual date night would take an unexpected turn.
When Danny Reached His Stop, He Saw What He Thought Was a Doll on the Subway Station Floor
As a New York City native through and through, Danny was used to taking the subway. It was something he did on a regular basis to get around the Big Apple, and he was familiar with the stops and the many subway stations around the city. But when his subway ride came to an end and Danny exited the train that evening, he realized that something was amiss. He told People that, “I got off at the 14th Street exit and noticed a bundle on the ground against the wall.”
He noted that “All I could see was two little legs sticking out of this dark sweatshirt” and he was instantly confused. At first, he assumed that a young child had been in a rush to get to her subway train and had accidentally dropped their doll on the floor. And while he started to walk up the stairs, something stopped him from putting one leg in front of the other. He confessed that he glanced back, and “That’s when the legs moved.”
His Gut Told Him That It Wasn’t a Doll, so He Went Back to Investigate the Unusual Bundle
As Danny stared at the moving legs that were bundled up in a sweatshirt, he began to question his first assumption. He knew that dolls and toys had been updated since he was a boy, but he had never come across one with such realistic limbs before. His gut told him that the bundle wasn’t a doll, and he was intrigued. In the end, his curiosity got the better of him and he turned back to investigate.
Now, Danny thanks his lucky stars that he decided to listen to his gut and walked back down the stairs to take a closer look at the strange object on the floor. But nothing could have ever prepared him for what he saw when he “rushed down and loosened the sweatshirt.” That’s because, at that moment, he saw with his very eyes that a baby had been left at the subway station.
Danny Could Tell That the Bundle Was in Fact a Newborn Baby Boy, and He Didn’t Know What to Do
The social worker couldn’t believe his eyes. He had ridden the subway for years and knew that there were often unusual sights and sounds to be seen and heard, but he had never encountered a baby before. He just stared at the baby in disbelief for a few seconds, before realizing how serious the situation in front of him was. Before anything, he wanted to “make sure he was breathing okay and that he seemed to be in good condition.”
As Danny inspected the baby, he could see that his umbilical cord was still partially intact, and this allowed him to come to the conclusion that he was just a newborn. But after this, he didn’t know what to do. He confessed that “I thought he might have been injured, so I didn’t pick him up for fear of causing further injury. I tried to alert other travelers who were going through the station. But it was about 8:00 at night and there weren’t a lot of people going through. I couldn’t get anybody’s attention.”
Danny Decided to Ring the Police, but He Didn’t Think That They Believed Him
Danny found himself at a standstill. He couldn’t find anyone around him to get help, and this was a time before the world had cell phones – so he couldn’t call anyone. In the end, he knew that there was only one option. He knew that there was a payphone on the street, and although he didn’t want to leave the baby on his own, he knew that he needed support. So, he noted that he ran up the stairs, dialed 911, and shouted “I’ve found a baby!”
After the call ended, Danny made his way back down into the subway station to wait with the baby, and he hoped that the police wouldn’t take too long to arrive. However, “time was standing still” and it seemed as though Danny was waiting for hours. He began to question whether the 911 operators thought that he was a hoax caller, so he rummaged around in his pocket in search of a quarter. He had to make another phone call.
He Then Rang His Partner, Pete, Who Immediately Left His Apartment to Meet Danny and the Baby
Danny felt lost as he sat next to the bundled-up baby on the subway floor, so when he found another quarter in his pocket he knew that he needed to call his partner, Pete. He ran back up the stairs to the payphone and shouted the same thing he had said to the 911 operator: “I’ve found a baby!” At first, Pete thought that his boyfriend was joking – but Danny wasn’t one to make jokes. So, after a second’s pause, he knew that he was being serious.
Danny asked Pete to call 911 again as they were taking so long to arrive, but Pete knew that he needed to do more. He asked Danny where he was, and as the subway station was just one block away from his apartment, he decided to go and help in person. He told Danny that, “I’m just going to come down there. It’d be faster for me to help once I’m there.”
The Cops Had Arrived Just before Pete, and The Authorities Took the Baby Away with Them
Although Pete rushed down to the subway station as quickly as he could, the cops arrived just before him. He immediately saw Danny standing at the top of the steps, and so he asked: “What’s going on? Where’s the baby?” Danny pointed down the subway steps just as two police officers turned to face them, with one of them holding the baby in their arms. Pete was overcome with emotion. He knew his partner wasn’t lying, but seeing the baby in the flesh was “chilling.”
Pete told People magazine that “We got to watch this miracle in this police officer’s arms yawn and wiggle a bit. The ambulance was taking forever to arrive, so the police decided to transport the baby in the back of their car. We said goodbye, watched them put the baby in the car, and they drove away.” The couple was left shellshocked, unsure of what to do next. But they could have never imagined the next chain of events.
With the Baby Gone, the Couple Tried to Get On with Their Night… But They Couldn’t
As Danny and Pete stood in the now-empty subway station, they tried to process what had just happened. It had been one of the most bizarre evenings of their lives, and they didn’t know what to do. They still had dinner reservations – but could they just go to a restaurant and pretend as though nothing had happened? They didn’t know if they could.
Pete was one of the first people to say something after they watched the baby being taken away. He turned to Danny and said, “You know, you’re going to be connected to that baby for the rest of your life. I don’t know how, but someday he’s going to learn about this night and he may want to meet the person who found him.” Danny knew that Pete was right, so he vowed to do something the next day to maintain that connection.
The Next Day, Danny Went to the Hospital to Check on the Baby, but He Was Turned Away
Despite the fact that Danny and Pete knew that the baby was in good hands with the authorities, they just couldn’t stop thinking about the newborn. More than anything, Danny just wanted to know that he was healthy and alive – so he decided to go to the hospital the next day to find out more about the baby. Although he learned that the baby had been born on the day that Danny found him, they wouldn’t tell him anymore.
Hospital staff told Danny that “only families are allowed” to see the baby, and so he had no choice but to leave. And for a moment, Danny thought that it was all over. He noted that “We went on with our lives because we were thinking, “Well, that’s the end of the story. He was going into foster care or a family member had come forward and that was it.” But six months later, everything changed.
Six Months Later, Danny Was Contacted by the Child Welfare Agency to Testify for the Baby He Found
For six months, Danny and Pete tried to get on with their lives. They attempted to live in relative normality, trying to forget about the day that Danny found an abandoned baby in the subway. But six months after that fateful day, Danny received a call from the attorney with the Administration for Children’s Services. They wanted him to testify at a legal hearing that removed the biological parental rights for the baby. So, that’s what he did.
During this hearing, Danny explained the events in detail to the judge and went through a play-by-play of what happened that night. But as the hearing wrapped up and Danny got his belongings together to leave and get on with his day, the judge asked him if he wouldn’t mind staying behind so that she could talk to him in private. At the time, he had no idea that this conversation would change his life.
The Judge Held Danny Back After the Hearing and Asked Whether He Would Consider Adopting the Baby Boy
During the hearing, Danny learned more about the baby boy and what would happen to him next. He discovered that the courts and the Child Services were working together to put the abandoned baby into pre-adoptive foster care as quickly as possible, before finding a more permanent home for him later down the line. Of course, the best-case scenario was that the baby would be adopted straight away. And in Danny’s eyes, that made a lot of sense.
But what took Danny by complete surprise was when the judge turned to him and asked him a very important question. She asked, “Would you be interested in adopting this baby?” The social worker stopped dead in his tracks. He hadn’t expected to be asked such a thing, and he just stared at the judge for a few moments. Then, his answer came out of his mouth before he realized what he had said.
Danny Immediately Said Yes, but Soon Realized That He Needed to Speak to Pete about It
Danny told People magazine that “I pause for a second and say, ‘Yes, but I don’t think it’s that easy.'” In his eyes, he couldn’t imagine a baby simply being passed on to the man who had found him in a subway station, and assumed that they would have to go through a huge legal process to obtain any kind of parental right. But the judge immediately put him at ease, stating that “It can be.”
She told the social worker that “If you’re interested in adopting, then you’ll need to show up at the next court hearing to state your intentions.” And when Danny knew it could be that simple, he once again told the judge that he would do it. But shortly after he left the building, he realized that he may have jumped the gun. He knew that he needed to talk to Pete about it, so he called him immediately.
Pete Couldn’t Believe That Danny Had Said Yes, and Stated That They Didn’t Have the Money to Take Care of a Child
When Pete answered the phone, the first thing that Danny said to him was “You’re never going to believe this.” And it’s fair to say that he was right. Pete couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and he couldn’t believe that his partner of three years had agreed to adopt a child without even consulting him first. Pete then went on to say, “Absolutely not. Go back into the courtroom right now and tell her no, you misspoke.”
It wasn’t that Pete didn’t care for the baby boy, but more that he just didn’t know how they would make it work. Later that evening, when they had the chance to properly talk about it, Pete explained himself. He asked, “What were you thinking? How could you say yes? How are we going to make this work? We don’t have any money. We don’t have the space. There’s no way we can raise a child in this city. We have nothing.”
Danny Knew That He Wanted to Adopt the Boy, and Understood if Pete Didn’t Want to Do It with Him
Although Danny understood what Pete was saying, he also knew that his gut feeling to say “yes” in the courtroom meant something. He knew that he wanted to adopt the baby boy, stating that “This is a gift. We can’t refuse this. We’ll never get this opportunity again.” But Pete wasn’t convinced. He was thinking with his head, while Danny was thinking with his heart – and they had reached a stalemate.
A few days later, Danny told his partner that he understood if Pete didn’t want to adopt the baby that he had found in the subway, but that he wanted to do it – even if that meant he had to raise a child alone. But the baby had been temporarily placed in a foster home, so Danny tried one last-ditch attempt to get Pete onboard. He told him that “It’s going to take six to nine months. They can’t place him with us right away. We could get ready.”
In the End, Pete Agreed to Go and Visit the Baby as He Knew It Was an Opportunity They Couldn’t Pass Up
Pete could see how much this adoption meant to his partner, and he could also understand where he was coming from. After all, there’s never the perfect time, but there is the right time – and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like the right time. So, he noted that “I agreed to go with him to visit the baby. I’d softened up and realized this was something that we weren’t ever going to get another opportunity to become parents. This was it.”
Pete also confessed that “We both had never thought we would be parents, ever, only because we were two men with no money and no space. Our lives weren’t geared towards child-rearing at all. It was not in the forefront of our thoughts until it was. We thought this was the universe giving us a gift, it was now or never.” And when the couple made their way to the foster home to meet the baby, they discovered once and for all if this decision was the right one.
When Danny and Pete Held the Baby for the First Time, They Realized That He Was Their Son
Although Pete was still worried about how they would raise a baby in New York City apartment, all of his worries washed away when the couple visited the baby in the foster home. Danny was the first to hold the boy, asking “Hey, do you remember me?” and Pete stated that the moment “was the cutest thing” for him to watch. And after a short while, the baby reached out his hand to grab Pete’s finger.
When that happened, Pete knew that it was meant to be. He confessed that “I melted. I realized that we were smart, capable men, and we can definitely make this work. I felt overjoyed that we were going to be starting this family together. I just turned to Danny and I said, “This is our son.” But the couple also knew that they were in for a wild ride and that it would take at least six months of legal battles before they could take him home. Or so they thought.
The Couple Were Given the Chance to Look After the Baby for a ”Holiday Visit” but They Only Had Two Days to Prepare
When Pete and Danny told the judge that they wanted to adopt the baby boy in December 2000, she was over the moon. But the couple was overwhelmed when she told them that they would be able to take the baby home two days later for a “holiday visit.” Their apartment was not suited for a baby, they didn’t own any toys or even a crib, and they just felt incredibly unprepared. But they were also excited to welcome the baby they had named Kevin into their home.
Thankfully, the couple had a whole host of people around who wanted to help. Pete’s mom, dad, and sister all helped to buy all of the items they would need for a five-month-old baby, and within just 48 hours they were able to transform their 400-square-foot apartment into a home for a baby. And while they were doing that, Pete tried to read as many baby books as possible to ensure that they were prepared when Danny picked Kevin up on the morning of December 22.
During Their ”Holiday Visit” Danny and Pete Bonded with Kevin and Knew That They Had Made the Right Decision
Despite their worries, their panic, and how rushed they felt, Danny and Pete, took to fatherhood like ducks to water. Kevin settled right into their lives and into their home, and they had the most incredible few days together. They bonded, they played with each other, and they formed emotional connections they had never imagined.
As Kevin lay on Pete and Danny’s chests after a day of playtime and adventure, they knew that they had made the right decision. Being dads felt like the most natural thing in the world to them – especially with Kevin. They knew that they wanted him to be in their lives forever, and they told the judge how amazing the experience they had been. But while they were gearing up for the “holiday visit” to end, they received some news.
The ”Holiday Visit” Never Ended, and Pete and Danny Officially Became Kevin’s Parents in 2002
When Pete and Danny asked the judge and those at Child Services when they were supposed to give Kevin back after their “holiday visit”, they were told that they could keep him. The authorities could see just how happy Kevin was with his two new dads, and they could see that Danny and Pete were meant to be his parents. So, their short visit never ended. The adoption wasn’t made official straight away, though.
It took another two years before Kevin officially became their son, and the adoption process was finalized on December 17, 2002. But while Pete was over the moon when this hearing eventually took place, he did have a question he wanted to ask the judge when he saw her again. He asked: “Your honor, we were wondering why you asked Danny if he was interested in adopting?”
The Judge Told the Couple That She Had a ”Hunch” That They Would Be the Best Parents for Kevin
When the judge answered Pete’s question, she looked them straight in the eyes and said: “I had a hunch. Was I wrong?” As soon as she said this, the couple was overcome with emotion. They couldn’t believe that they had been provided with such a gift and that the judge had felt them deserving enough to raise such a wonderful child.
And in their eyes, he was the perfect kid. They told People that “Kevin was such an easy kid to raise. I don’t know how else to say it. We got so lucky. He slept all night. He’s always been a very self-sufficient, self-motivated kid who’s really conscientious. He just came to us that way.” But what’s even more incredible about this story is that it doesn’t end here. Kevin had a much bigger role to play in his parents’ lives.
In 2011, the Couple Wanted to Get Married, and Kevin Suggested They Use the Judge Who Finalized His Adoption
For years after Kevin’s adoption was finalized, the whole family lived in their own little bubble. They took Kevin on bicycle rides around the city, they helped him with his homework, they threw him birthday parties, and they enjoyed every minute together. But in 2011, when New York State granted same-sex couples the right to marry, Danny and Pete wanted to take their family to the next level.
During one walk to school when Kevin was 11 years old, Pete decided to approach the subject with his son. He asked, “Your dad and I are thinking about getting married. What do you think?” Kevin looked at his dad for a moment before replying with, “Don’t judges marry people?” Pete noted that “In that second I quickly realized what he asked. I said, ‘You want to meet the judge who finalized your adoption?'” Instantly, Kevin nodded.
On July 13, 2012, Danny and Pete Were Married by the Woman Who Made Them an Official Family a Decade Earlier
With Kevin’s idea in their minds, Pete and Danny set about trying to find the judge who had finalized his adoption in 2002. They sent an email to the Manhattan Family Court, not knowing if she even still worked there, and hoped that they would be able to find her. Amazingly, they heard back from the judge’s clerk that same afternoon and learned that the judge would be happy to marry them both.
Danny and Pete officially tied the knot on July 13, 2012 – and Kevin was excited to not only see his parents marry but to also meet the woman who had changed his life. Pete told People that “When Kevin met her, they hugged. Kevin wasn’t usually star-struck or timid. But he didn’t know what to say at that moment.” And when Danny spoke to her, “I told her that it’s only because of her that we’re a family. I’m incredibly grateful to her that we became a family, and her performing our wedding was just a beautiful moment that came full circle.”
Kevin Is Now at College, but Loves Spending Time with His Dads Out in Nature When He’s Home
Amazingly, Kevin is now a whopping 21 years old and studying at college – but not just any college. He managed to secure the grades to study at a top-rank college and is working towards a double major in computer science and math. But when he’s not in the library, he’s hanging out with his dads in nature. They miss him when he’s away at college, but these outdoor activities always bring them back together.
Pete puts this down to his childhood. He’s noted that “When Kevin was really young, we’d go to playgrounds or go to a park and, if possible, bike. We love being outdoors. When he got a little older, we started going to national parks. All three of us love to hike. And just spending time together in nature.” And when they spend this time together, they often think about the fact that they managed to find each other in this crazy world.
The Couple Are Amazed That They Now Have a 21-Year-Old Son, and Can’t Believe the Circumstances That Brought Them Together
All in all, Danny and Pete can’t believe that they have managed to spend 21 years of Kevin’s life with him. Not only that, but they also managed to see him on the very day that he was born! And while their situation and their family unit certainly came about in a very unusual way, they wouldn’t have changed anything for the world.
Pete has since written a book about their experiences. And in this, he writes, “Sometimes life hinges on little moments, happy accidents, and miraculous surprises. Sometimes babies are born into forever families. Sometimes they are adopted. And sometimes, all it takes to find your family is a chance glance at tiny toes wiggling in the corner of a subway station.”