Joyce Blut refers to Emilio Martinez as his guardian angel, his saint Emilio.
Bluth, 74, is one of seven strangers whom Martinez free-drive from Omaha, Nebraska, airport to Denver on September 11, 2001, when their planes were intercepted in the wake of terrorist attacks.
Martinez died in 2016, but her daughter, Las Vegas radio host Mercedes Martinez, made a call on social media last week ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, searching for seven strangers who had been at the mercy of her father. had touched in the hope of being reminded.
When Emilio Martinez’s plane, bound for Denver from Ohio, landed at Omaha airport, he immediately rented the biggest van he could find, discovered it was tied to Denver on a piece of cardboard and Seven people gave a distance of about 500 miles. Ride home for free.
“I don’t know what I was expecting, but I think it filled some story for me and really got me some closure,” Mercedes Martinez said on Tuesday after speaking with Blutt.
Blut, who lives in Colorado Springs, heard about Emilio Martinez’s mission to find van passengers when a loved one saw the story on the news.
“I told my daughter-in-law the story two hours earlier because we were talking about 9/11 and where we were, and of course, she saw it shortly after,” Blut said.
Blut was flying from Denver to Chicago on that fateful day, on his way to visit his parents, when his plane was grounded. After wandering the Omaha airport trying to figure out how to get her home—all rental cars were booked and no planes operating—Blut called her late husband, who gave her some patience. Told to keep and they’ll figure something out.
“Literally, I approached him and Mr. Martinez was holding the sign,” Blut said. “I can’t explain to anyone how amazing he was. Right there a guardian angel.”
Blut said people began to approach Martinez and her sign, and very soon she followed him in her van with another woman and five men.
Blut said, “‘Should I or not?’ There was never a feeling of “It was a miraculous moment for all of us.”
Once aboard the van, Blut said Martinez tuned in to National Public Radio and passengers began to learn more about the terror attacks. Blut said a silence fell on the vehicle and the woman next to him trembled.
“Everyone was just sitting there, numb,” Blut said.
As the minutes and hours passed, Blut said people eventually started sharing the little details of their lives: whether they were married, had kids, what they did for a living.
“Do I remember any of his names or what he said 20 years later? No,” Blut said with a laugh. “I’m lucky if I remember what I had for lunch yesterday.”
They stopped for a bathroom break, filled up with gas, and everyone got snacks and drinks for the rest of the drive, Blut said.
Because Blut lived in Colorado Springs about an hour from Denver, she asked Martinez to drop her off at Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree, where her late husband would be waiting to pick her up.
Blut has told the story of a stranger’s kindness to the family over the years, and her granddaughter shared Martinez’s good deeds in her class as well, as an example of the effects 9/11 had on everyone.
“I think about this guy all the time,” Blut said. “I will never forget him.”
Blut said that he and his current partner go to Las Vegas several times a year.
“Joyce told me that when she found out the plane was landing and they didn’t know why, she was initially upset because she didn’t get the cup of coffee she ordered on the plane,” said Mercedes Martinez. “I told her that the next time she was in Vegas, I would buy her that cup of coffee or a glass of wine, if she liked. She said she would take me over to wine.
“I think my dad must be smiling that we are reuniting after so many years.”