This former flight attendant has a long journey ahead of him, but it’s a trek he’s gladly taking to honor the flight crews—his friends and colleagues—who lost their lives during 9/11.
Paul Veneto is doing what he’s done for 30 years as a flight attendant for five different airlines—pushing an airplane’s beverage cart.
The 62-year-old will walk from Boston to New York City ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“It’s a long way to New York, but I will drag that thing. I will do whatever I have to do to get it there,” Paul told WFXT.
The cart is decorated with pictures of every airline crew member who died that day. It’s to inspire and encourage Paul to keep pushing when things get difficult.
“I look on top of this cart, I see these crew members’ faces, every time my legs hurt, it’s cold, rainy, they’re smiling back at me, the pain goes away,” he told AP.
Paul has always thought of the families these crew members left behind, and he wants his colleagues to be remembered for who they are: heroes.
“They were the first first responders. They were heroes. They were absolute heroes,” he said.
“Holidays would come and their birthdays and especially the anniversary, you know, they weren’t just killed up on an airplane. What they did up there was extraordinary under those conditions. It was unbelievable,” Paul said.
The tribute, which he calls Paulie’s Push, will benefit the 9/11 crew members’ families’ registered nonprofit organizations and Power Forward 25, a nonprofit that helps people battling addiction.
Their cause is close to Paul’s heart because he, too, went through an opioid dependency—which he said was partially caused by the aftermath of the attacks—that almost ended his life.
Paul has been prescribed the drugs for a back problem while he continued to work. But he soon started relying on them to forget the horrors of that tragedy.
“Of course we were all impacted, but us in Boston where these planes left, we were really impacted,” he said.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 sent him out of control, and he retired. It took Paul five more years to overcome his drug habit.
Paul normally flew the United Flight 175 leg between Boston and New York. He had flown into Boston the night before, and his day off was on September 11—when the plane was flown into the World Trade Center’s south tower.
Paul was helping a friend build a concrete wall at the time of the attacks. At first, he didn’t even know that the second plane to hit the towers was his regular flight.
As anyone would be, Paul was “in shock” when he found out.
“I wanted revenge. I was angry and I knew there was nothing I could do,” he said.
Since October, Paul has been training for the roughly 220-mile tribute, pushing the cart around his hometown of Braintree and Quincy, walking up to 16 miles per day.
Paul’s journey began on August 21. To make sure he’s in tiptop condition, he has quit smoking and lost 30 pounds. He’s also receiving training advice from a bunch of people who have competed in marathons.
He admits pushing a beverage cart around hasn’t been easy but says it’s nothing compared to what his colleagues endured during what they didn’t know was the last flight they would ever go on.
“It’s nothing to push this to New York compared to what they did,” he said. “That thing will end up in New York if I have to carry it on my back. I know they would have done the same for me.”
Click on the video below to learn more about Paul’s mission.
Click here to donate to Paulie’s Push.