LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – It was a simple decision that made a powerful impact. Emilio Martinez helped transport six strangers hundreds of miles to their homes on 9/11 after their flights were grounded. His daughter, Las Vegas Now’s Mercedes Martinez is connecting with one of those passengers after 20 years.
As the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy approached, Mercedes reached out on social media, hoping to connect with those who were with her father that fateful day.
Joyce Blutt was one of those passengers. She came forward to share her story.
“It’s the family story of 9/11,” said Blutt. “Everyone asked where you were. I knew and I will never forget it. How can you forget it?”
Blutt was unexpectedly grounded in Omaha, Neb. on 9/11, one of the thousands of passengers across the nation forced to land as the FAA ordered a full stop of all commercial air traffic.
Blutt was traveling from Colorado to Chicago to visit her sick mother. She worried she would be stranded in Omaha, until a chance encounter.
“I started to walk down the hall and there was a mass of people,” Blutt recalled. “There was a man who had a sign up, and I said ‘Oh, my gosh.'”
That man was Emilio Martinez, who was also trying to get home to Denver. His sign said he had rented a van and was looking for six people to share the drive back to Colorado. Five men and two women trusted Martinez to get them back to their loved ones.
It’s a memory Emilio’s daughter, Mercedes, holds dear since her father’s passing.
“This was the five-year anniversary of my father’s passing,” said Martinez. “He died from brain cancer. It’s been five years, but this year was really hard. Every year we talk about 9/11 and what he died.”
This year, Mercedes took to social media to find those six strangers.
“Two worlds collided,” recalled Mercedes. “Two people coming from different cities and crossed paths. I love to hear how the other people came into play, how they are doing now, and do they ever think of my dad.”
“For seven hours I drove in a van with six people,” said Blutt. “I don’t remember their names, but I always remembered (Emilio).”
On 9/11, Blutt had been headed to Chicago to visit her sick mother, who passed away a short time later. She said she cannot watch 9/11 coverage because it’s too painful.
Blutt hopes the other five passengers from the van come forward so she can relive their time together that day.