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NEW YORK – Carmelo Mercado was a firefighter in Queens when the call came for all departments to rush to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Mercado and his crew arrived at Ground Zero just moments after the second twin tower collapsed.
Mercado, a 27-year veteran with the FDNY, was forced to retire from the department three years later because of the toll the search efforts took on his body.
In 2004, doctors told him that he had developed a lung ailment from responding to Ground Zero.
Amazingly, he just hit the jackpot.
“I said, ‘Holy mackerel, that looks like $5 million,” he said. “My mind went blank. I was in shock.”
Lottery officials say he will take home a $3.3 million lump sum payment after taxes.
Mercado says he plans to take a cruise, buy a house and treat his daughter.
“My daughter asked me, ‘Does that mean I can get an American Girl doll?” he said. “So I told her, ‘How ’bout 10?”