A 9/11 first responder just got 5 million reasons to smile.
Carmelo Mercado, a retired New York City firefighter who rushed toward the collapsing World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, won $5 million from a scratch-off ticket he purchased in Queens, New York, the New York Lottery confirmed on its website.
“I thought about Jackie Gleason – homina, homina, homina – that’s a lot of money,” Mercado told CBS 2 after he was presented with an oversized check on Thursday.
The regular lottery player said he won on the second Cash x100 ticket he bought that day on one of his regular visits to the Jolly 100 store.
“I bought one ticket and lost on it. I noticed the next ticket in the pack was number 25 – my birth year backwards – so that was the next one I bought,” said Mercado, who collected a lump sum of $3,309,000 after required withholdings.
Mercado, 63, was a member of the Queens Battalion 49 on the day of the terrorist attacks, and was forced to retire in 2004 because of 9/11-related health issues.
“The lung doctor at the fire department told me, you know, he was going to push me out,” Mercado told the news station. “He said, ‘Listen, your breathing is not good. You lost a lot of oxygen.’ ”
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Now retired and living in Harriman, New York, the Queens native says he’s got “so many plans” for how he will spend the money.
“My daughter already has her heart set on 10 American Girl dolls,” he said, per the lottery commission. “I will certainly help out my family and this year’s Christmas presents will be a little bigger than last year’s. But I’m really excited to buy a summer house at Disney. We go as a family every year and it will be nice not to have to rent anymore.”