Former flight attendant en route by foot to ground zero passes through in Darien

Photo of Katrina Koerting

Paul Veneto is no stranger to pushing an airline beverage cart en route from Logan Airport.

But for the past few weeks, the retired United Airlines flight attendant has pushed a beverage cart on the ground, not thousands of feet in the air, as he travels on foot from Boston to ground zero to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and those killed in the terrorist attacks.

This past holiday weekend, he and his cart traveled through southwestern Connecticut where he was greeted by numerous supporters.

“It reminded me how important it was to keep that memory alive of what happened on 9/11 and all of the heroes who did their part to keep people alive and bring people to safety that day,” said Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson, one of the many gathered when he passed through town.

Veneto started his journey on Aug. 21. The journey, known as Paulie’s Push, is 220 miles long and is scheduled to end when he arrives at the former site of the twin towers on Saturday. The entire trip has been documented online where Veneto also shares the meaning behind the trek.

“I am doing this because I want these crew members’ families to know how courageous they were that day,” he wrote. “I want the public to understand that under those conditions that morning, what those crew members did, nobody could have trained for. They really need to be recognized as heroes. They were the very first first responders.”

He told Hearst Connecticut Media when he passed through West Haven last week that he feels like he’s already accomplished what he set out to do by bringing attention to the memories of his former colleagues.

He’s continued to draw crowds at each stop.

Stevenson said it’s hard to say how many people came out in Darien because Veneto traveled the entire Post Road, stopping to speak with the pockets of supporters gathered along the way.

She said she decided to come out because 9/11 is a date burned in her memory. She still recalls where she was when she found out that airplanes had hit the twin towers and crashed into the Pentagon and the aftermath. Her husband works in the financial industry and “he lost more friends than I can count that day,” she said.

“It’s a really poignant moment in my and my family’s life,” she said.

Stevenson also remembers those who stepped up to help others, including the first responders and those who became first responders in the moment, like taxi drivers and the flight attendants Veneto is walking for.

First responders were on hand to support Veneto too.

A firetruck and police car accompanied him on this walk through Westport on Sept. 4. The Westport Fire Department encouraged people to join themselves, Westport EMS and Westport Police in supporting Veneto as he traveled through town.

Norwalk Police, Fire and EMS picked up the escort at the town line and accompanied him to Veterans park.

Stevenson said what’s happening in Afghanistan now brings back memories “full force” for those impacted on 9/11.

“It’s why the 20th anniversary is so important,” she said. “It reminds us why we’re there in the first place.”