Sammy Nickalls
July 03, 2015 11:31 am

Carmelo Mercado, 63, was a first responder on a tragic day in the nation’s history: September 11th, 2001. He risked his life to help thousands on a day of fear and turmoil, rushing to Ground Zero just moments after the second tower collapsed and spending two days searching for survivors.

So for today’s dose of “things that are right in the world,” the brave, heroic Carmelo just won a massive lottery prize. That’s right: a 9/11 first responder has just won a whopping $5 million in the lottery!

“It’s good to be a part of the Lottery family,” Carmelo, who hails from Queens but currently lives in Harriman, New York, told the New York Lottery after he won his big prize. “I always tell people you’ve got to play if you want to win.”

Carmelo followed his own advice back in May by stopping at the Jolly 100 on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, New York. “I bought one ticket and lost on it,” Carmelo explained to the New York Lottery. “I noticed the next ticket in the pack was number 25 – my birth year backwards – so that was the next one I bought.” Sounds superstitious, but hey, it worked. . . because that second ticket happened to contain the winning combination. Boom: $5,000,000 (well, $3.3 million after taxes) granted to a man who truly, genuinely deserved it. Fate? We totally think so!

“I was in shock when I realized I won,” he told the New York Lottery. “It’s a blessing.” In fact, he was so surprised that he had to do a double-take when he saw the digits. “I said, ‘Holy mackerel, that looks like $5 million’,” he told NBC New York. “My mind went blank.”

The big thing to do if you win the lottery is to quit your job. Carmelo retired from the New York City Fire Department before he hit the jackpot. In fact, he retired three years after 9/11 because of the toll the job took on his body—he had developed a lung ailment from responding to Ground Zero.

But he’s already got the best plans EVER in store with the cash. “My daughter asked me, ‘Does that mean I can get an American Girl doll?'” Carmelo told NBC New York. “So I told her, ‘How ’bout 10?'” OK, so his first plan is to shower his daughter with American Girl dolls, because he is truly a wonderful soul.

But that’s not all. Christmas will be a grander event this year, Carmelo says. “I will certainly help out my family and this year’s Christmas presents will be a little bigger than last year’s.”

But the biggest plan for Carmelo in his family? Florida, baby. “. . .I’m really excited to buy a summer house at Disney,” Carmelo told the New York Lottery. “We go as a family every year and it will be nice not to have to rent anymore.” Oh, and he and his family may take a well-deserved cruise.

Carmelo risked his life to help our country when we needed it most. We can’t help but think it’s fate that he was granted this wonderful prize, and we can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.

(Image via New York Lottery)

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