It was Friday the 13th and Isabel Zelaya was listening to a Spanish-language radio station, where there was talk of it being an unlucky day.
"The radio said it was a bad day," Zelaya, 45, of Wyandanch, recalled Tuesday. "But I said, 'No. Not for me. Today is my good day.'"
So that Friday earlier this month, Zelaya, an immigrant from El Salvador, went out to the local P&T Supermarket and bought $3 worth of Mega Millions lottery tickets.
He won $26 million.
On Tuesday, the father of two was introduced to the public at a news conference hosted by lottery officials in Garden City.
Choosing to take a lump-sum, one-time payment, Zelaya received a total award of $17,716,535 -- a net total of $12,073,818 after taxes.
The winning ticket was selected via computer-generated Quick Pick numbers, officials said. The winning numbers: 10, 12, 26, 46 and 50, with a mega ball of 23, officials said.
Also introduced Tuesday were sisters Barbara Romanik of Hicksville and Christina DiLello of Wilton, Conn., who won the $1-million top prize in the Green and Gold instant game. The sisters are the first people to win the game's top prize, lottery officials said.
But it was Zelaya, who came to the United States in 1984, who stole the show with his tale of luck.
Zelaya said that Monday night he quit his job as a night-shift worker for Coral Graphics Services Inc. in Hicksville.
He said he hopes his winnings will help a number of dreams come true.
He wants to use some of the winnings to provide a college education for his daughter, 14, and son, 9. He said he wants to give some of his winnings to his sister. Zelaya said he wants to move, open a restaurant and take vacations.
"I know," Zelaya said, "I don't want to go back to work in the factory."
- Click here to see photos of the lottery winners