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Steve Mercado, in tribute
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Thinking about Steve

Steve accepts a trophy
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Steve, Skylar and some of the firefighters who were teammates in the 2001 Stickball Classic Kickoff.
I met Steve only couple of years ago. In this brief time I saw his love of family, the quality of his leadership, his passion and integrity.

Steve was a family man. He loved his two sons, Skylar and Austin, and took great pride in watching them grow. After several years of marriage, he was still deeply in love with his wife Joviana, appreciating her intelligence, beauty and constant support. He showed love and respect towards his parents and brothers and brought them great pride.

We all know of Steve's dedication to the game of stickball. He was the President of the NY Emperors Stickball League as well as one of the best players in the game. However, his passion for the sport ran much deeper than enjoying its recreational value. Steve saw the game as a bridge between the generations; a link of the past to the present, and if he had anything to do with it, the future as well. He consistently reinforced this point in messages on the Emperors web site or printed material: "Stickball, not just a game, but a tradition." In just a couple of years since taking the position as president, Steve's integrity and commitment has brought the Emperors' league back from decline to once again be a major force in the sport (see his comments during the 2000 Memorial Day Tournament).

Steve was a firefighter, the kind of person you'd expect in that position: confident, upright, willing to go forward and meet whatever challenge he had to face. He was a strong man and it was easy to imagine him loaded with supplies to fight a fire or carrying a victim down to safety upon his broad shoulders.

On Tuesday as we watched the news about the World Trade Center, my thoughts turned to Steve. His fire company was stationed in midtown Manhattan, close enough to be at the scene soon after disaster first struck. I hoped he hadn't been on duty but after calling his friends, I learned that unfortunately this was not the case. Steve was working and his unit was among the first to have arrived.

Just after the first World Trade building collapsed, we heard reports that the left side of the stairways was lined with people going down, while on the right side, hundreds of firefighters, clad in their equipment and dripping in sweat, were running up. In the aftermath of this tragedy and as the scenes of destruction replayed on TV, I remain haunted by an image of these warriors charging up to battle a blaze of unimagined strength. I see Steve, among these heroes, helping lead the way as they tried to save as many lives as they could.

The firefighters understood they would suffer great casualties, but they ran up to do their duty. No one expected the buildings to fall. No one could conceive of the horror and destruction we have witnessed. No one anticipated the scope of the loss or the consequences we will now face.

Firefighters are known as New York's Bravest, an appropriate term. However, these qualities of courage and strength apply to their loved ones as well, families who live within the shadow of a potential tragedy. And now, for so many, that tragedy has struck.

We send our love and prayers to Steve and his loved ones as well as to the families of so many others touched by this horrific event. To the members of the greater stickball community, a prince has been lost. May Steve's integrity and commitment be remembered and reflected in our own lives.

-Mick Greene

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