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'Paulie's Push' honors airline crews lost on 9/11

Former flight attendant Paul Veneto embarks once again on a special journey to honor the flight crews who sacrificed everything that day.
Posted at 9:33 AM, Sep 08, 2023

In the oppressive heat of late summer, Paul Veneto pounds the pavement.

"Heat, weather, cold, hurricanes — it doesn't make a difference to me," he said.

He's on a mission — one born out of a tragedy and a twist of fate more than 20 years ago.

Back then, Veneto was a flight attendant who normally worked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles. A last-minute schedule change — a miracle, he said — kept him from working that flight on 9/11.

It later crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board, including the flight crew he worked with for years and his longtime friends.

"For me to push this cart on the street is absolutely nothing, really," he said. "It really, really isn't. I'm just pushing a cart. It doesn't even come close to what they endured that morning."

From that came "Paulie's Push," his yearslong effort to honor all of the flight crews who died on 9/11.

We first met Paul Veneto in 2021 as he raised money for charity while pushing an airline beverage cart from Boston's Logan Airport to Ground Zero in New York City, a path that followed the tragic, final route of his colleagues. We caught up with him again last year as he honored the crew of American Airlines Flight 77 as he pushed the cart from Washington's Dulles Airport to where that plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

"Paulie, what he's done, has been therapeutic for flight attendants, including myself, because he's recognizing them," said retired flight attendant Karen Murphy.

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This year, Veneto is honoring United Flight 93.

He started out at Newark International Airport in New Jersey and will end his walk on 9/11 in the quiet, rural community of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In a field-turned-national park just outside of town is where the Flight 93 Memorial now stands. It's the final resting place of the passengers and crew members, who called loved ones for the last time using seatback airplane phones before fighting back against the terrorists on board that day.

"When I think of this on 93, this is what they used to try to take that plane back. They slammed one of these into the cockpit door, trying to get in there," Veneto said as he looked down at the airline beverage cart. "This thing here is pretty special to me — this cart — because it symbolizes really the heroes that they were that day. They were absolute heroes."

That is why Veneto said he keeps pushing, in the hopes others can also find inspiration in their efforts from that day.

"I got their pictures on the top of the cart," he said, as he looked at photos of all the crew members, "but, you know, I look at their faces and they're smiling back at me. So, that's where I get my strength. I look at them guys."

He also hopes the walk can provide comfort to their family members, some of whom will be in Shanksville on 9/11 to greet Veneto when he arrives.

"We want to comfort them — family members left behind," he said of his yearslong efforts. "And that's the only reason. There's no other reason."