I Remember Steve…A 2996 Tribute

Firefighter Steve Mercado is among the missing in the World Trade Center attack on Tuesday. This photo is on display at the station where they do duty Wednesday Sept 19, 2001. Newsday photo by J. Conrad Williams Jr.

I did not know Steve Mercado, but he was my kind of guy. He was funny, handsome, made a mean chili and damn it, he was a hero. On September 11th he and eleven other of his firefighter brothers were lost in the World Trade Center. I imagine him charging up those stairs, intent on answering the calls for help. Intent on fulfilling his mission to save and protect. He was that kind of guy. He lived to help people. To make them laugh, make them feel like things were really okay. And I think that when Steve was around, people did feel that way.

He was born and raised in the Bronx and dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees as a kid. He played stickball in the streets with his pals – a game his father had taught him and eventually a game he would teach his own son and countless other children. A tradition he carried into adulthood.

He married his childhood sweetheart Jovianna and eventually they had two sons, Skylar and Austin. He was a dedicated husband and father and took great joy in watching his children grow. I imagine that he had a picture of his wife and kids taped inside his helmet – I don’t know it – but he seemed the kind of man who would. Who loved his life so much that he would want to keep the things dear to him close. I imagine too, that his last thoughts were of his family, what kind of men his sons would grow up to be and how very much he loved Jovi.

He was a modern day warrior, facing life and death as a matter of course. Charging in to whatever task life had dealt him – unphased and unafraid. And, I believe the world was better for Steve having been in it. He made the world a better place, a safer place, and a kinder place. He had a passion for life and it showed.

He loved stickball and dreamed of it becoming an Olympic sport one day. He was a legendary player and the President of the NY Emperor’s Stickball League. According to Steve, “Stickball is all about community. For me, I learned the game from my father, and others of his generation. They were my heroes, the role models we looked up to. Stickball was an important part in our tradition of teamwork, determination and community. My goal now is to reach out to the kids growing up today to make sure we continue to pass down these values.”

 

Stickball was a true calling for Steve. His wife said that he believed that there wasn’t any problem that couldn’t be worked out by a game of stickball. I think he may have had a point. Nothing like whacking balls over the rooftops and running like the wind to give you perspective. He was responsible for creating many teams across the country, starting programs for kids who might otherwise have not had the opportunity to learn about the teamwork and tradition Steve so loved. What lucky kids to have had such a great role model as Steve. He made things better, not by words but by his actions.

Steve was a man who made a difference and I believe still does. In the words of Buddha, If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. I hope that I have in some small way shown you the miracle of Steve.

Steve’s poem to his dad:

Addendum: Sharon Cannone, Steve’s cousin was kind enough to share the eulogy she delivered at Steve’s memorial service in November 2001:

There’s only one way to deal with the pain of losing my cousin Steve and the thousands of other lives that were lost on September 11. There’s only one way to come to terms with the pain and fear we feel. The only way to get beyond this is to live our lives the way my cousin chose to live his. We must be brave.

I have a lot of memories of my cousin. We grew up in the same building together and always stayed very close. A lot of memories…. But one memory in particular has been playing over and over in my mind since I learned that he was among the missing. Among Steve’s many talents a long time ago he dabbled into the world of boxing. And with just about everything else he took on, he trained long and hard to hone his skills. Well, the hard work and training paid off, because Steve qualified for the Golden Gloves and had his big night at Madison Square Garden. Steve was well represented that night by family and friends. When he entered the ring for the main event, the Garden “rocked” with applause from his fans. After the usual introductions, the fight began. But a minute or so into the fight, Steve took a punch to the chin and hit the canvas with a thud.

The moment Steve fell, I jumped out of my seat and started screaming at the top of my lungs. STEVIE GET UP!! STEVIE GET UP! I don’t remember how many times I yelled to my cousin, but all of a sudden, Steve got to one knee, shook his head, got up and beat the living daylights out of his opponent. The Garden went wild.After the fight, we all went to a bar in the City to celebrate. Steve told me that as he was lying on the canvas he heard a voice through the haze screaming his name. And that’s when the haze cleared, he said “That’s Sharon – I gotta get up”. He told me that night at the bar that it was my voice yelling his name over and over that enabled him to win the fight. I never thought I could be prouder of my cousin as I was that night — the night he fought the fight of his life. But I was wrong.

From the moment I knew that Steve was missing, I thought about that night at the Garden. Over and over I prayed, Stevie please get up. But it wasn’t in the cards this time. Even though I was joined in prayer by friends, family, the City and the whole Country. We all screamed your name Stevie, but this time your opponent was a dirty fighter who hit way below the belt.

I’ll never understand the twisted minds of terrorists who can cause pain like this. I don’t understand why some people choose to live their lives with pure hatred in their hearts instead of love. Their hatred defines who they are. Steve’s love for life, great sense of humor and truly giving heart defined who he was. He put his life on the line for his fellow man on a daily basis. And I’m very proud to have been a part of his life.

Note: For those of you in the NY area, PBS will be airing a documentary called “Bragging Rights” that covers the game and tradition of stickball. Steve is featured in this documentary and it will air Thursday, September 14th at 8PM.

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25 thoughts on “I Remember Steve…A 2996 Tribute

  1. Nicely written. Thanks.

    How did you know him?

    Hi Carpus,

    I didn’t know Steve, but I’m sure I would have been proud to call the man my friend. My tribute to him is part Project 2996.

    WC

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  2. I’m so moved by how you captured this man’s spirit.
    He seems like the kind of guy I’d love to sit and have a beer with, if only to steal his chili recipe.
    Truly a shame. So much to live for.
    His memory will live on…

    ~m

    Oh Michael,

    I so wanted to do him justice, you make me think maybe I did. I would have loved to have had a beer with him myself. I have a feeling I really could have appreciated his sense of humor.

    WC

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  3. Very nice tribute…I have posted one as well, and found yours through the yahoo group.

    Thanks for coming to read about Steve. I’ll be coming by soon.

    WC

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  4. A very nice tribute…thank you so much for sharing.

    Thanks for coming by, Kate. I appreciate it.

    WC

    PS: I went and read your tribute to JJ – beautiful. I’m afraid i couldn’t get the comment box to open though.

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  5. Steve sounds like he was a really great guy, someone you wish you could have met. Thanks for writing such a nice tribute.

    Thanks Dog – I think he was too. I’ll be by to read yours soon.

    WC

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  6. Awesome tribute! Another one that showed the spirit and passions of the person.

    Thanks Cheryl,

    I’m so glad I did this.

    I loved yours to Michael as well, but Yahoo said I couldn’t make a comment.

    WC

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  7. That was a really nice tribute for a wonderful man. he was truly a hero! What a beautiful smile on his face. thank you for writing this!

    My tribute for Adam K. Ruhalter is also up.

    Thanks Cathy, he was a hero. Adam’s tribute was lovely.

    WC

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  8. This is a wonderful tribute! Thank you so much for being part of 2996. May God Bless his family.

    Thank you as well. Yes, God Bless his family and the families of all.

    WC

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  10. That was a fitting tribute to a brave man. His poem showed how much family meant to him. I know that his children will be as proud of him as he was proud of his dad, even though he can play the game with them only in spirit now.

    Thanks Fuzz, I think maybe he’s organizing a team up in the wild blue as we speak.

    WC

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  11. Wonderful job WC I’m sitting here remembering my friends Ace and Mark Bavis today on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 and of their families and the families of all the others who’s lives were forever changed along with a nation who still mourns that day. When we all realized that “the land of the free and the home of the brave”..
    Where we all felt safe had come ubder attack…

    Thanks Ger. I feel for you buddy. Have you been able to find out who did the tributes to your friends?

    WC

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  12. I am Steve’s cousin, and I just want to say that you’ve captured him beautifully. He was a wonderful man, a great cousin and friend, a terrific husband to Jovi, and a fiercely loving and devoted father to Skylar and Austin.
    I miss him terribly, but I know he walks with giants, and he watches over his family and friends.

    And he would have been honored to have had a beer with you.

    He was a few years younger than I, more like a little brother to me, but he’s my hero and always will be.

    Thank you for your tribute.

    Jim,

    Thank you so much for your kind words and for coming to read the tribute. It was important to me to honor Steve for who he was. It’s funny, because in learning about Steve and doing this tribute, I feel that I know him.

    Thank you and all of his family and friends for sharing him with us. Yes, he does walk with giants.

    Respectfully,

    Annie (aka WC)

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  13. Steve Mercado is my cousin (Jim is my brother). I was so happy to find the note you posted in one of my cousin’s memorial pages, and then read your tribute. You captured the essence of what kind of man Steve was. He lit up any room with his presence and wonderful sense of humor. The world will never be the same without him.

    Thanks again for the wonderful tribute and for keeping his memory and spirit alive.

    Sharon

    Sharon, I am so touched that both you and Jim came by to read the tribute. I was honored to do it and glad you feel that I somehow managed to capture part of who he was. Please convey my condolences to your family and friends. I plan to keep the tribute up for the next several days.

    Sincerely,
    Annie (aka WC)

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  14. Thank you for sharing about Steve with us. He sounds like a hell of a guy. I would have liked to have struck him out playing stickball! You did a *great* job WC.

    I wrote about Harry Ramos, a man who was killed while comforting a complete stranger. Everyone in Harry’s office made it out that day. Harry could have too, but he chose to stay behind and try to help someone he didn’t know.

    Jay T. thanks for coming by to read about STeve. As to the stickball, my sense is that he woulda given you a run for your money. I will be by soon to read about Harry. I am very slowly making my way through the 2996ers tributes – but I am determined to read every one.
    WC

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  15. Sounds like you painted the perfect picture of him. I bet he did wear a picture of his family inside his helmet.

    Hey Greta,

    Thanks for coming to read about Steve…I really do envision him doing that.

    WC 

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  16. Very nicely done. And thank you for your comment over at my place for Rocco.

    It was hard to write, harder than I thought it would be. When I learned he was married, with two girls.. well. It was hard.

    best

    d in t

    Thank you, Steve. Yes, it was hard to write. I don’t know about you but these folks are becoming individuals in my mind, who had lives and dreams. Before they were a vague group of innocent victims who I grieved for en masse. Now, I feel I will grieve for each of them individually. I think though, that that is a good thing.

    WC

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  17. You did a great job with the tribute. I felt dirty when I heard the pundits trying to get mileage and spin out of 9-11. Then I visited your site, and was uplifted with one of the best presentations that I have read.

    Thank you, Writerchick. I wish the pundits would get with the program. We cannot take sides or blame America. We have to embrace our culture and the goodness of America.

    Respectfully,
    Bosun

    Bosun,

    I’m so glad that you found reading about Steve uplifting. He was quite a guy.

    And I couldn’t agree with you more – we do need to embrace our wonderful country and the wonderful citizens of this country.

    WC

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  18. Awesome tribute. First, because you introduced him to us so well and so vividly. I loved the part about a game of stickball being able to resolve stuff…:)

    Thank you for sharing his story with us.
    Thanks Monica, for coming to read about Steve – I too liked his philosophy about the game of stickball being a universal solvent. It’d be worth a try anyway.
    WC

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  19. Thank you for the tribute. Sharon and Jim are my aunt and uncle. Sharon told me today about your site, and I must commend you on the piece. It was beautifully done, and very appreciated. Steve was my older cousin, and I miss him more and more with every passing day. Thank you again.

    -Angel

    Angel,

    Thanks for coming to read the tribute – truly it was my honor and my pleasure to have done it. I can see that yours is a very close-knit family and I am sure you do miss Steve every day. He was one of those real stand-up guys. Be well.

    Annie

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