Keeping a Hand in Baseball
While growing up in the Bronx, Steve Mercado wanted to play for the Yankees. And even though he ended up becoming a firefighter, he did not exactly leave his boyhood dream behind. He played softball with other firefighters. He presided over a stickball league. And he was helping to create a baseball and stickball league for children under 9. "He had his fingers in everything," said his mother, Mary Mercado. "Every time someone calls, I say, 'I didn't know that.' "
But Mr. Mercado, 38, who remained in the Bronx with his wife and two sons, also loved being a firefighter, his mother said. He is now one of 11 firefighters missing from Engine 40, Ladder 35 in Manhattan. His parents, who live in Florida, visited the firehouse recently and were greeted with hugs and kisses from firefighters and strangers alike. "They cry with us," Mrs. Mercado said of the strangers dropping off flowers, food and money at the firehouse. "New York City has been great. They feel the pain." But none more than her son's Fire Department brothers, she said.
"The firemen are the ones that are hurting," Mrs. Mercado said. "They say they have to have hope."
That is why she still spoke of the oldest of her three sons in the present tense. "I'm very proud of him," she said. "He's a great son."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 2, 2001.