With the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks on September 11 arriving, more and more stories of kindness, compassion, and heroism are being shared online.

We've heard many of the stories before - books have been written, movies have been produced, podcasts are available online teeming with stories of how kindness bubbled its way to the top of an awfully dark and scary time.

From Gander, Newfoundland, and Moncton, New Brunswick to regional airports all around North America, the stories of local families welcoming scared, tired passengers of grounded aircraft are both heartwarming and inspiring.

One story I came across this morning is from a woman who is looking for the people her father helped after their plane was grounded during the attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Her name is Mercedes Martinez, and her Twitter feed lays out what her father did that day.

She says he was on a flight from Ohio to Denver when the plane was directed to land at the closest airport possible, which turned out to be the airport in Omaha, Nebraska.

Even before the plane landed, Martinez's father knew something was askew, so he started to plan ahead.

After he secured the van, he found a box and scribbled a sign.

Google Maps tells me that the distance from Omaha, Nebraska, to Denver, Colorado, is over 540 - a good seven-and-a-half-hour drive.

He found 7 people who were headed to Denver and they loaded up.

Martinez's father could have rented a compact car, tossed in his bags, and sped off to Denver by himself, but he didn't. He was scared (I think we all were), probably didn't know a soul in that airport, and still thought of others enough to offer to help at least a few get to their final destination(s). And he didn't drive straight to the Denver area rental car return and leave his passengers to find rides to their individual homes, either: he provided door-step service to each and every one of them.

It was obvious prior to the above Tweet that Martinez and her family were proud of him for what he did that day.

When I started reading the thread, I became curious as to why Martinez was trying to find the 7 people her father helped that day. The next Tweet in the thread explains it.

I know that people handle tragedy in different ways. Some people need to visit the tragedy over and over as a way of dealing with it, while others never want to think of it again. I think that I would want to remember the good things that happened the days following 9/11: the kindness showed, the hugs shared, the phone calls made, the extra "I love you"s. I think that, had I been in that van, I would have wanted to keep in touch with Martinez's father. And I also think that, had I been the recipient of his kindness that day, I would want to know of his passing.

Emilio. Did you notice how she said it? She said, "His name is Emilio." Is. Not was. His name IS Emilio.

As long as Mercedes Martinez can tell this story, and as long as those 7 strangers who were on the receiving end of his kindness on a day of darkness and fear and tragedy can tell this story, Emilio will live on.

Thank you, Emilio, for being kind. We need heroes like you more today than ever.

NEVER FORGET: Images from 9/11 and the days after


See 20 Ways America Has Changed Since 9/11

For those of us who lived through 9/11, the day’s events will forever be emblazoned on our consciousnesses, a terrible tragedy we can’t, and won’t, forget. Now, two decades on, Stacker reflects back on the events of 9/11 and many of the ways the world has changed since then. Using information from news reports, government sources, and research centers, this is a list of 20 aspects of American life that were forever altered by the events of that day. From language to air travel to our handling of immigration and foreign policy, read on to see just how much life in the United States was affected by 9/11.

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