Honoring 9/11 crew: A former flight attendant on his quest to push a beverage cart from BOS to NYC

Sep 5, 2021

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The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is coming up, and former flight attendant Paul “Paulie” Veneto is embarking on the mission of a lifetime to honor the flight crew who were killed on that day, many of whom were Veneto’s close friends and co-workers.

Veneto has embarked on “Paulie’s Push” to honor the fallen flight crew of Sept. 11, 2001, during which he’ll be pushing an airline beverage cart from Gate C19 at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to Ground Zero in New York City.

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The journey is in honor of the path of United flight 175, which left out of that gate in Boston on the morning of Sept. 11, bound for LAX. The plane never made it to California, crashing into the South Tower after terrorists hijacked the aircraft.

The crew members on board that flight included ​​Captain Victor Saracini, First Officer Michael Horrocks, flight attendants Robert Fangman, Amy Jarret, Amy King, Kathryn Laborie, Alfred Marchand, Michael Tarrou and Alicia Titus.

“I’ve worked that flight, I know those crew members,” said Veneto.

Veneto is a former United Airlines flight attendant who was based out of Boston for 25 years. He started working for United in 1997 and flew domestic transcon routes from BOS to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO), on a Boeing 757 and 767.

Before that, Veneto got his start in 1981 for World Airways. “I got to see the world,” said Veneto, who was intrigued by flying as a kid. But not the flying part, it was more about meeting people, he said.

Paul “Paulie” Veneto. Photo courtesy of Paulie’s Push.

Veneto said before the crash he worked with the 9/11 base crew doing that same route on the three-class 767. “I flew with Kathryn, Amy [Jarret], and Alfred,” he said. “[Alfred] was only flying for 10 months.”

Veneto said flight attendants Amy King and Michael Tarrou were engaged to be married.

Veneto said he finished working on the eve of 9/11 and when the first plane hit he immediately called the airport. “It was chaos.”

Related: America remembers 9/11 – photos from across the country

“We all knew each other and knew which people flew transcon, so I had a good idea who was on the airplane right away,” said Veneto. “It was an out of body experience. We wanted information they couldn’t give us.”

Four days later, the airline wanted staff back on planes, said Veneto. “That wasn’t an easy thing. There was an awful lot of fear, especially in Boston.”

Veneto says he developed an addiction to pain meds after being prescribed Norco for back pain shortly after 9/11. He said “numbed” himself with pills for 10 years thereafter, while he continued to work as a flight attendant.

Through the rehab program Power Forward 25 he met Kevin Stevens, a two-time Stanley Cup winner. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 also marks six years clean and sober for Veneto.

Kevin’s sister Kelli Wilson is the one who spearheaded Veneto’s mission. Wilson’s husband came up with the name.

Acquiring the beverage cart was the easy part. “I went to the airport and a catering company gave it to me when I told them what I was doing,” said Veneto. “Two minutes later and they were wheeling the cart out.” They even gave him a few backup carts just in case.

Related: Remembering the 8 Pilots and 25 Flight Attendants Who Died on 9/11

With the help of Dave McGillivray, who has run across the country twice and run the Boston Marathon 46 times, a strategic route was mapped out and a camera fashioned to the cart to chronicle the journey. “I have the most elite athletes giving me advice,” said Veneto. That roster also includes Becca Pizzi, who has run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. “All these people could tell me all this information but no one could tell me how to push a beverage cart,” laughed Veneto. “It’s not gonna be easy.”

Veneto said he started training on Oct. 10, 2020. “I pulled my car up to the beach. I said, ‘This is Day 1.’ I began walking the beach every night, every day — whenever I could.”

On March 1, Veneto said he brought the beverage cart to a park to take it for a test spin. By May 1, he moved to the street to get used to the terrain. Veneto would log eight miles in the morning and eight in the afternoon.

Veneto’s dedication and training all led up to the kick off on August 21. The journey is 220 miles total. His goal was to log between 10 and 20 miles per day and finish his journey in New York on Sept. 11.

As of publication, he’s just finished mile 188 in Greenwich, CT. That leaves 32 miles left to go in five days — a finish line well within Veneto’s reach.

“Nothings going to stop me from getting this thing there — even if i have to throw it on my back and carry it,” said Veneto.

Related: The aviation industry remembers 9/11

Veneto said he’ll be staying in hotels along the way and that two high-school friends will be following close behind in an RV for support.

As part of the journey Veneto will be raising money for crew members’ families that have started nonprofits, as well as Power Forward 25, which has been his main sponsor. “I feel so grateful I’m able to do this,” said Veneto.

Veneto has dedicated the mission in honor of the crew members who were killed on 9/11. “They were never recognized for their heroics because of the enormity of that day,” said Veneto. “No one recognized what these crew members did at 8 a.m. in the morning. They were still able to get info to us on the ground, despite everything going on.”

More than anything, Veneto wants the family members to be proud of that 9/11 crew. “Their loved ones were heroes,” said Veneto.

Follow along on Paulie’s journey here, or make a donation

Photo courtesy of Ian Stoker-Long / Compel 

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