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'Paulie's Push': Retired Flight Attendant Honors 9/11's 'First First Responders'

Paulie's Push

"Never forget." The phrase that became a rallying cry of unity for Americans in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks means something different, but no less important, more than two decades later as the country approaches the 21st anniversary of one of America's darkest days. 


There's now an entire generation of Americans whose use of "never forget" is more symbolic than literal since they have no memory of the day or weren't even alive yet. For those who do remember — especially those who were personally affected by or had a front row seat to the terror as it unfolded — it's a phrase that includes a personal commitment to remember their friends, colleagues, and loved ones who were taken that day.

Such is the case for Paul "Paulie" Veneto, a retired United Airlines flight attendant. 

On September 10, 2001, Veneto arrived in Boston after working flight 175 from Los Angeles, clocked out with the rest of his crew, and retired for the night. The next morning, his United Airlines colleagues got up and went to the Boston airport to operate the same flight's turn back to LAX. 

Departing at 8:14 a.m. and climbing into the crisp, clear skies over the East Coast, it was a perfect day to fly for United 175. But by 8:47 a.m., the plane's transponder code was switched repeatedly. Just after 8:50 a.m., the crew was unresponsive to air traffic control calls. At 9:03:02 a.m., United 175 was crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower by its terrorist hijackers.

The personal connection for Veneto to his colleagues and friends aboard United 175 — and in solidarity with the crews of the other hijacked planes and their passengers — drove him to continue ensuring their memory and bravery was not forgotten. In 2021, Veneto started "Paulie's Push" and walked an airline drink cart from Boston Logan International Airport to the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan, retracing the flight path of United 175 and American Airlines Flight 11.


For this year's 21st anniversary of the attacks, he's pushing his cart again — from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to the Pentagon, tracing the flight path of American Airlines Flight 77. His goal: to honor and remember the flight crews who battled terrorists in the skies on September 11. 

"These guys were really the first first responders of 9/11, these flight crew members, and they were overshadowed — and I felt like their families never heard it from the rest of us in this country that they were American heroes," Veneto explained.

For this year's walking memorial, "Paulie's Push" began on September 8 at the American Airlines crew lounge at Dulles before setting out with his 50+ lb drink cart from the gate under a water cannon salute en route to the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial where he's due to arrive Sunday afternoon.

Already, Veneto has been joined by first responders in the cities along this year's route, along with retired and current flight attendants in remembering those who were killed in the attacks. 


You can track Paulie's Push to the Pentagon here, and learn more about his work to honor the first heroes to confront the terror of 9/11 here

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