A retired United Airlines flight attendant who is pushing an airline beverage cart from Boston all the way to Ground Zero for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 has reached New York and is ahead of schedule.
Paul “Paulie” Veneto, 62, began the 220-mile trek when he pushed off from Logan Airport on Aug. 21.
“I’m in the Bronx right now,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday morning. “It’s been quite the trip.”
Veneto was a United Airlines flight attendant when terrorists hijacked four planes on Sept. 11, 2001. Two of those planes — United Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 — took off from Logan and crashed into the World Trade Center. Veneto decided to push the cart from Boston to New York to pay tribute to the flight crew members who died that day, because he wants people to know how courageous they were.
“I want the public to understand that under those conditions that morning, what those crew members did, nobody could have trained for,” Veneto states on his website, www.pauliespush.com. “They really need to be recognized as Heroes. They were the very first First Responders.”
Veneto grew up in Milton and currently lives Braintree. He said what happened on 9/11 sent him into “a tailspin of opiate addiction” that nearly killed him, but he’s been clean since 2015.
Veneto has walked while pushing the cart, which is decorated with photos of the fallen crew members, all the way through Massachusetts and Connecticut and into New York. On Thursday he was in the Little Italy section of the Bronx.
Proceeds from Veneto’s fundraising efforts will support Power Forward, a nonprofit that aims to end the stigma of addiction. It was started by his close friend, former NHL player Kevin Stevens.
Kelli Wilson, the chief executive and president of Power Forward, said the reception Veneto has received along the way has been “phenomenal.” People have made signs emblazoned with slogans like “Go Paulie Go” and cheered him on from the side of the road. Others have offered him hugs, cookies, and donations.
“Its unbelievable in New York, it’s just phenomenal, all the love,” Wilson said. “We’re all coming together here to support this epic journey.”
As he made his way down to New York, Veneto said he never once thought about stopping.
“That never entered my mind, not even a fleeting thought,” he said. “I feel great. Each day’s the same to me. Mentally, I knew that this had to get done.”
Now Veneto is close to completing his mission.
“It’s been quite a journey,” he said.
And when he finally reaches his destination, “it’s going to be emotional,” he said, “I know that.”