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7 Denver strangers made it home on 9/11 because of him; his daughter wants to meet

Were you helped by Emilio Martinez during 9/11? He rented the largest car he could find and got seven strangers home to Denver.

DENVER — The daughter of a man who helped seven strangers home from Omaha, Neb., during the 9/11 attacks is looking to connect with those people 20 years later, and a few years after the death of her father, Emilio Martinez.

Mercedes Martinez set out to find these seven people before the 20th anniversary of the attacks by sharing a Twitter thread of all the information she knew. 

Her father was away on a business trip on Sept. 11, 2001, flying back to Denver from Ohio; shortly after takeoff, Martinez said, the pilot announced the plane would be grounded due to a security breach. 

They were told they would land in Omaha and get more information when they landed.

Taking an extra precaution, as soon as they got cell service her father called and asked to rent the largest van the rental company had.

After landing and reading the news, Emilio Martinez headed over to pick up the van he rented, parked it and returned to the terminal, Mercedes Martinez said. There he found a cardboard box by a trash can and asked a ticket agent for a Sharpie. 

He wrote on the sign: "GOING TO DENVER," hoping to find others stranded away from the Mile High City.

>> More photos of Emilio Martinez

That day Emilio Martinez drove seven strangers home and dropped them all off at their front doors in Denver, refusing to take anything in return. 

"To him, seeing those people make it to their families when the country was being attacked was the only thing that mattered to him," Mercedes Martinez said. "Many of those people kept in touch with him for several years after 9/11/01. It warmed his heart. We were so proud of him. We still are."

Emilio Martinez died from brain cancer on July 24, 2016, and getting so close to the anniversary of such a selfless act, Mercedes Martinez wonders if the seven still remember. 

"I know social media is powerful and I'm really hoping this tweet finds those people," Mercedes Martinez said. "I'd love to hear about that drive."

Mercedes told 9NEWS her dad kept in touch with the people from the van for years - but eventually, that faded away. If you'd like to reconnect - reach out to us here - and we'll put you in touch.


"You had an amazing dad. That day -- he was so amazing," Joyce Blutt said in a Zoom call with Mercedes Martinez on Monday, just more than a week after the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Blutt was on her way to Chicago when her flight landed in Omaha on Sept. 11, 2001. She saw Emilio Martinez's sign and followed him immediately to the van.

Blutt saw his daughter's ask and reached out to her about that ride so long ago. While 20 years have passed, she still remembers the personal connections she made with strangers that day.

"We did share then where we all lived, did we have family, did we work, where were we going or coming from?" Blutt recalled. "[Emilio Martinez] was in my life for such a short time but he made such a big impact."

Mercedes Martinez told her that's just the kind of person her dad was.

Emilio Martinez dropped off Blutt at Park Meadows Mall after their road trip. Her husband came up from Colorado Springs to pick her up and bring her home.

Blutt still calls Emilio Martinez a blessing because of what he did for her and the other strangers in the van.

"Can you imagine today, something happening and being in an airport and you can't get home, and some stranger's there saying, 'I'll take people with me.' Yeah, right," she said.

WATCH: Colorado woman meets stranger helped by her dad on 9/11

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