In the summer of 2000, social worker Danny Stewart, then 34, was walking through a crowded New York City subway station when a bundle tucked up against a wall caught his eye.
“I was like, ‘Oh, some little girl left her doll on the ground,’” Stewart, now 55, told NBC Nightly News.
Then its legs started moving and Stewart quickly realized he wasn’t looking at an abandoned doll. He was looking at an abandoned newborn baby with an umbilical cord still attached.
With trembling hands, Stewart dialed 911 from a payphone. His next call was to his now husband, Peter Mercurio, who got there just as police were arriving.
Authorities took the child and gave him the name Daniel Ace Doe after Stewart, the A/C/E subway line and his heartbreaking anonymity. A citywide search began for the baby's parents.
Months later, with no sign of the mother or father, Stewart was asked to attend a court hearing as a witness. That’s when the judge asked Stewart a life-changing question — one that he wasn't expecting.
“She said, ‘Would you be interested in adopting this baby?’” Stewart recalled. “All eyes were on me. And I said, ‘Yes, but I don’t think it’s that easy.’ And she smiled and chucked and said, ‘Well, it can be.’”
Though Stewart and Mercurio had no plans to start a family, they decided that Stewart had been the one to discover the baby for a reason. The couple chose to adopt him — and chose the name Kevin for their son in honor of a sibling of Mercurio's who was stillborn.
“Seeing Danny hold him for the first time was quite powerful,” Mercurio, 52, remembered while speaking with NBC Nightly News. “Danny looks down at him and says, ‘Remember me?’ These two human beings that had a connection that found each other that night.”
Now, more than 20 years later, Mercurio has written a poignant children’s book called “Our Subway Baby.” It tells the story of how they became a family.
“We need to be reminded of hope and possibility and love,” Mercurio explained. “And this story seems to be doing that.”
Kevin is 20 and at college studying math and computer science. When the family is together, they love to go kayaking and visit national parks.
"I can't imagine my life if it didn't turn out this way," Stewart told the BBC earlier this month. "My life has become much more enriched and full. It has changed my world view, my perspective, my whole lens."
Mercurio feels the exact same way.
As he told NBC Nightly News, “I didn’t know this kind of deep love existed into Kevin came into our lives."