A retired flight attendant will be pushing a beverage cart from Dulles airport to the Pentagon next month in honor of his colleagues who were killed on 9/11.
It was the evening of September 10, 2001, when Paul “Paulie” Veneto arrived back in Boston on Flight 175. He was working as a flight attendant for United Airlines at the time and the Los Angeles to Boston was his normal route. But his shift was up, so he and the rest of his crew switched.
“The next morning, September 11, the next crew went out the trip I had just finished,” he told ARLnow over the phone. “So, I knew all of those crew members.”
In remembrance of his former colleagues and all the crew on the four flights that were hijacked on that fateful day, Veneto will be pushing an airplane beverage cart 30 miles from Dulles International Airport to the Pentagon. That’s the path of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon and killed 184 people.
Veneto is set to begin the journey on Sept. 8 with his arrival set for Sept. 11, 21 years after Veneto himself narrowly avoided becoming a 9/11 victim. The cart will be adorned with the names of all those crew members that died that day attempting to save lives.
“You hear about all the police and fire and they all deserve credit, they did extraordinary things,” said Veneto. “But I knew people were suffering not hearing about the heroics of those crew members.”
Last year for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, he embarked on a similar, though much longer, journey. It took him 230 miles and about three weeks to push a beverage cart from Boston Logan International Airport to Ground Zero in New York.
He encountered numerous obstacles making that trip, including hurricane-like rain, hills, heat, and railroad tracks, but what he remembers by far the most are the people lining the route and cheering him on.
“It was unbelievable… there were whole towns, fire trucks, everyone waiting for me,” Veneto said. “It was crazy.”
He had military veterans, police, and those who lost people that day coming up to him to tell him their stories of how 9/11 impacted them.
That’s when he realized he needed to do the beverage cart push again, this time following the path of Flight 77 that ultimately went from Dulles to the Pentagon. He and his team have scouted the route already, which is mostly a bike path and “pretty flat.” He doesn’t foresee any major issues, though does caution he’s “expecting the unexpected.”
While a beverage cart can weigh a couple of hundred pounds, Veneto said that pushing one down the road has nothing on navigating one through the aisle of a full aircraft attempting to avoid legs, arms, and knees.
Veneto’s journey will start at about 8 a.m. on Sept. 8, when he will go down the ramp at Dulles, en route to the Pentagon. The plan is to arrive in Arlington in the afternoon of the 21st anniversary of the attacks.
For those who want to track Veneto or, even, cheer him along the way, a real-time map will be providing photo and updates on where he is.
Veneto, who struggled with drug addiction after 9/11, said he gets inspired to remain sober by remembering those colleagues and friends who lost their lives that day. He hopes others might as well find some strength in the memories of the crew members to battle whatever challenges they are facing.
“I get the strength from looking at [their pictures] and thinking of what they must have went through that morning,” he said. “They were the first responders.“
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