Paulie's Push: Former flight attendant trekking from Boston to NYC with cart to honor 9/11 crew members

A former flight attendant is making sure the bravery of his co-workers on Sept. 11 is not forgotten by pushing an airline beverage cart in their memory more than 200 miles.
Paulie Veneto is going from Boston to New York City. Veneto started training for the trek in October, but his journey really began 20 years ago.

"I look back on it now, and I know that was where my life changed," Veneto said.

Veneto was off the day terrorists hijacked United Flight 175, which he regularly worked.

Nine of his colleagues, many of them close friends, were on board when the plane crashed into the World Trade Center's South Tower.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: 9/11 - 20 Years Later

"I played that scenario for 20 years in my head, what went on up there. And the thought of someone doing that to somebody I knew like that -- that I went to work with -- that's why I did the job, because of those people," he told News 12.

Consumed by grief and anger, Veneto veered off course. He became addicted to opiates to numb the pain.

"I fell apart before the 10-year anniversary. That's when I really crashed and burned," he recalled.

The path to getting clean was a rough one. Veneto was in and out of treatment facilities for years.

"Every year the anniversary would come up and fuel my addiction to that stuff. It wasn't until 2015 that I finally came out of a treatment, and I knew. I knew it was over if I used again. That was six years ago. It'll be six years clean September 11."

Every stride since then has brought him here -- following the path of Flight 175. Veneto took off from Logan Airport on Aug. 25 with a destination of ground zero on the anniversary. He's honoring his co-workers and the 24 crew members killed on the other flights that day. Veneto calls them "the first first responders."
 
"I feel like it's my obligation as a fellow crew member to have them recognized for the heroics that day. They left families, and nobody has ever said, 'Your relative was a hero.' I can't believe it," he said getting choked up.

It's an emotional mission, but Veneto isn't taking it on alone. He's had a police and fire escort through almost every city and town. And there's been no shortage of support along the way. People have lined the route with signs and flags, cheering as Veneto passed.

"I had to tell everybody -- friends, family, it's something to really come out for," one man said.

"I'm just in awe of the whole thing honestly," added a woman as she captured video on her phone.

Some people have a personal connection while others are so moved, they've walked with Veneto.

"Fifteen miles a day? That's a lot," one woman told us as she kept up with the brisk pace. "Pushing a cart? That's even harder, so good for him."

"I didn't expect the response that I'm getting," said Veneto. "They're bringing their kids. It's unbelievable! The best part is meeting the people. I love meeting the people coming out of the houses."

The encouragement he encounters keeps him going. So do his former coworkers. He has their pictures on the top of the cart.

"The minute I feel any ache or pain or I'm sweating or whatever, I just glance over, and I see their smiling faces looking at me, and right away it clicks in. And you know something? This is nothing compared to what they endured that morning. Nothing. And I swear to God, the pain goes away."

Veneto has come a long way -- both in distance and in life. "Let me tell you something. It's a miracle that I'm here talking to you right now."
He's now on the final leg of his push.
"I can't even believe I'm here 20 years later, and now I'm finally doing it. What a gift! I'm telling you, what a gift," he said.
Veneto has also been raising money along the way.
Half will go to the flight crews' families' foundations and half to the nonprofit Power Forward, which is sponsoring Paulie's Push. It helps support those struggling with addiction.
-By News 12's Marissa Alter