After a long journey spanning over 200 miles from Boston to New York City, retired United Airlines flight attendant Paul Veneto arrived at the World Trade Center on Saturday, Sept. 11 at around 1:15 p.m. ET.
"I'm standing here right now by ground zero getting ready to leave and I am a little emotional," Veneto told TODAY via telephone. "I accomplished what I set out to do, but it feels surreal as I walk by these names on the walls here."
Veneto pushed an airline beverage cart throughout the entire journey to pay homage to his late colleagues who were lost when United Flight 175 was flown into the south tower at the World Trade Center 20 years ago. United Flight 175 was part of Veneto’s regular route, but he happened to have Sept. 11, 2001 off.
His momentous arrival in New York City in addition to his entire journey was documented on the Instagram dedicated to his walk, aptly called Paulie’s Push. In one poignant shot taken from a low angle, Veneto stood with his hands placed on the cart with One World Trade Center in the background.
The 62-year-old began his journey on Aug. 21 at the Boston Logan Airport, following a route leading southwest down the east coast until he reached ground zero in southern Manhattan.
He made stops along the way and was greeted by local community members, law enforcement and public officials, in addition to fellow flight attendants who were able to track him down and walk alongside him for part of his journey.
TODAY even encountered Veneto on his journey as he passed through Connecticut last weekend.
Veneto’s cart was appropriately decorated with photos of the airline crews to give him inspiration and courage through his journey.
“I look on top of this cart, I see these crew members’ faces, every time my legs hurt, it’s cold, rainy, they’re smiling back at me, the pain goes away,” he told the Associated Press last month.
In a video shared to the Paulie’s Push Instagram, Veneto recalled Sept. 11, 2001, explaining the moment he found out that one of the aircraft’s he usually worked had been involved in the crash.
“I knew at that point my life changed forever, I just did,” he said in a voiceover. “It’s just a hollow feeling like I was all alone by myself in the whole wide world. No matter where I went, all the people I saw, my family members, it didn’t make a difference to me. I was alone.”
Veneto was able to overcome the feeling of loneliness and his personal struggles, later adding, “I’m still here today. I’m here today to do this, to recognize those crew members. They were the first first responders and they deserve to be treated as heroes of 9/11.”
All of the proceeds from Paulie’s Push will benefit the families of his former colleagues in addition to the non-profit Power Forward 25, which assists people who are dealing with addiction, a cause close to Veneto’s heart. The retiree is in recovery from an opioid dependency as collateral from the attacks.
“I turned my life around to be able to recognize these guys who were never recognized,” Veneto said. “We all can tell this country and the world that these crew members were heroes on 9/11.”