By Michael Abeyta

(CBS4)– Mercedes Martinez has many fond memories of her dad Emilio Martinez. Now she hopes that some people can help fill in the blanks when it comes to Sept. 11, 2001 and her father.

(credit: Mercedes Martinez)

She says, “He was your typical Hispanic dad. Very much a family man. As loving as can be, but tough as nails.”

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As we approach the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11, one of them rises to the top. She had just moved from her home in Colorado and started working as a radio morning show host in Las Vegas when the planes hit the twin towers in New York City.

She recalls, “Amidst all the chaos I remember thinking, ‘my God, my dad… he’s still in Ohio.’”

She was worried, so she called her mom in Denver to check up on him, but she hadn’t heard from him either.

“That was just sitting in the pit of my stomach that morning,” Mercedes says.

(credit: Mercedes Martinez)

Soon they learned he was grounded in Omaha, Nebraska. Quick thinking landed him a rented a 7-passenger van to drive home, but he didn’t just leave.

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He stood outside the airport with a cardboard sign offering to take people with him to Denver. He filled the van with strangers and took off for home. Mercedes says he didn’t charge them and even drove them to their front door.

“It was just his second nature,” she says.

Emilio died in 2016 and now Mercedes wants to find those 7 passengers to hear their stories about her dad.

“I just want to know about that ride,” she says.

Emilio always told her one small thing can change the world. That day he chose to fight hate with one small action and she says that is a lesson we need 20 years later.

(credit: Mercedes Martinez)

“I really feel like it could take us back to that time when we just treated people like people and we weren’t fighting all of the time,” she says.

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If you are one of those seven Emilio drove from Omaha to Denver you can reach Mercedes at or on Twitter @mercedeslv is her handle.

Michael Abeyta