SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (WTAJ) — On Sept. 11, 2001, Waleska Martinez was traveling from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco, Ca. for work.
Waleska worked for the U.S. Census Bureau and was attending a conference with her co-worker, Marion Britton. She worked at the Census Bureau for 13 years after earning a degree in business and computer science from the University of Puerto Rico.
Her family considered her the backbone of the family.
“She was that chain that kept the family together,” her older sister Lourdes Lebron said. “Family was very important to her.”
Lourdes called Waleska her “everything.” The two were very close and would talk on the phone often. They would talk about their future plans to be at each other’s side forever.
Lourdes remembered, “We’d say when we get older we were going to be together. My concern was that I’d say all the time, ‘Please, I don’t want to be in a nursing home.’ She’d be like, ‘you’re not going to go to a nursing home. I’m going to be next to you and look out for you.'”
The Sunday before 9/11, Lourdes said that her sister told her she needed to go to church. So, that morning she went all over Springfield, Massachusetts to finally find a mass. Their last phone call was Monday, the 10th where Waleska told Lourdes of her trip and asked Lourdes to go visit their mother.
When Lourdes heard the news of planes being grounded and Flight 93 being unaccounted for, she kept sending messages to Waleska’s pager.
She detailed, “I said 4-1-3, my area code, meaning it was me from Massachusetts. And 9-1-1, letting her know it was me, it was an emergency. And then I said 1-4-3: I love you.”
Not being able to contact Waleska, Lourdes recalled feeling helpless. “When she was little I used to protect her,” she said. “I was tough and she was a good girl. Thinking about what she was going through, it’s sad. She didn’t deserve to…nobody deserves to die like that.”
Twenty years later, Lourdes hopes people honor the memory of her sister and fellow heroes of Flight 93 by doing some good for others. She said, “For the families, as a family member, that would give me satisfaction. Knowing that someone is doing something good on a painful day.”
Lourdes says that Waleska was always her hero. The fact that the world will forever see that as well gives her some solace.
“Knowing that the world recognizes her as a hero for what they went through and what they did that morning, that gives me some satisfaction in the way that I know that forever she is going to be everybody’s hero,” Lourdes said. “She was my sister, my friend, and my hero. ”