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Paulie’s Push

Retired Flight Attendant To Honor Memory Of Amy King On Saturday At 5K Run/Walk In Celoron

Paulie Veneto of Braintree, Mass. will be pushing a beverage cart as he participates in the Amy King 5K run/walk on Saturday in Celoron. The retired flight attendant is doing so to honor the memory of Amy and all the flight-crew members who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Three months ago, he pushed the cart from Boston to Ground Zero in New York City. Submitted photo

The trip to New York City had been just shy of a year in the making.

The brainchild of my son, Matthew, the August weekend was my 2020 Christmas gift from him, an opportunity to see my beloved Yankees play at the ballpark in the Bronx for the first time.

Although we had tickets for two games, we were only able to see the first one because Hurricane Henri was forecast to hit the Big Apple that August weekend, meaning that there was a very real possibility that our return flight to Buffalo would be canceled. The prospect of being stranded at John F. Kennedy International Airport was not something Matthew and I wanted to chance, so it was a rather easy decision to forgo the Yankees’ Saturday game and head for home via Amtrak that afternoon instead.

But before we arrived at Penn Station to board the train, I had one place I HAD to pay homage. It was Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center, which terrorists destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. So Matthew and I took an Uber to lower Manhattan. Upon arrival, we had to wait for the memorial site to open to the public. Once it was, Matthew — a frequent visitor to the Big Apple — knew exactly where to go, making a beeline to the perimeter of the South Pool where he found the name we were looking for — Celoron native Amy King, a flight attendant on the doomed United Airlines Flight 175 that was flown into the South Tower.

I took a moment to bow my head to honor her memory.

The date was Aug. 21.

That very same day, Paul Veneto was also honoring Amy’s memory, as well as the other flight-crew members who lost their lives on that awful day. Pushing a beverage cart, the 62-year-old retired flight attendant from Braintree, Massachusetts departed Boston Logan International Airport bound for Ground Zero, 220 miles away.

Three weeks later, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Veneto and his beverage cart arrived in lower Manhattan, completing a years-in-the-making tribute to his late friends and colleagues.

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Veneto, known affectionately as Paulie, will be pushing that very same cart in Celoron on Saturday. He’ll be one of the registered runners/walkers to participate in the Amy King 5K, which will kick off at 11 a.m. adjacent to the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am, to be honest with you,” he told me in a cellphone interview earlier this week. “For so many years I knew (pushing the cart to honor the flight crews) had to be done. The fact that it’s here and that I was able to accomplish what I wanted to for 20 years is mind-boggling to me.”

Veneto pushed that cart from Beantown to the Big Apple because he wanted the crew members’ families, according to his website, pauliespush.com, “to know how courageous they were that day.”

“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.”

To honor the memory and the heroism of Amy King, Lakewood YMCA branch manager Tom Anderson spoke to Veneto last month, with a big assist from his son, Cory, to inquire about the possibility of Veneto pushing that same cart on 3.1 miles of roads in the village that Amy grew up in.

“My son saw (a story on Paulie’s Push) in the newspaper in Washington, D.C.,” Anderson said.

“He emailed Paul and said, ‘I’d like to steal your idea.'”

Veneto’s response?

“Have your dad call me.”

Anderson did, and the rest is history.

Veneto, who flew transcontinental flights with Amy for years, would do the cart-pushing himself in her honor.

“It really means a lot,” Anderson said. “Tribute races I’ve been involved in over the years have begun to wane a little bit. What we do here we teach about Amy, her love of kids and how she was a hero. Having Paulie come makes it bigger.”

Added Veneto: “Deep down in my soul I know this is going to ease and give some comfort to somebody that’s related to her,” he said. “I don’t know who or why or what, but I believe it.”

Furthermore, not only will he be honoring Amy’s memory, but Veneto also hopes to be an inspiration to someone who is battling opioid addiction.

“After almost 15 years of numbing myself out from the thoughts of (9/11), I have finally been freed from addiction since 2015,” Veneto said on his website. “I can now finally give tribute to my fallen crew members.”

So, runners, walkers and any spectators along the Amy King 5K route will see that the cart Veneto is pushing bears photos of the crew members from United Airlines flights 175 and 93 on its top; and all four of the hijacked planes’ flight numbers on the sides, along with images of the towers and a set of wings.

And if his journey from Boston to New York is any barometer, Veneto hopes to hear similarly inspiring stories from local folks, too.

“I wish I could have had a camera on me to record every one of those stories,” he said of his 220-mile journey three months ago. “I was getting to the point where I couldn’t wait to go back out (each day), because I couldn’t wait to see the people again. They didn’t realize they were inspiring me more than I was inspiring them.”

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Veneto began preparing for “Paulie’s Push” on Oct. 10, 2020. Initially, that included walking up and down the beach at night. When the weather broke in the spring, he brought the beverage cart to a park and by May 1 he pushed it on the street.

“I’d do eight miles in the morning, come home, take a shower, eat something, rest for an hour and go out again,” Veneto said. “I got up to 20 miles per day.”

So by Aug. 21, there was nothing that was going to stand in his way. In fact, that very first day he pushed the cart 18 miles — in the aforementioned hurricane. By the time he reached Ground Zero 22 days later, his brothers and sisters were there to greet him.

“The look on their faces,” Veneto said, pausing at the memory. “Believe me, I know the pain that was in my family’s faces watching me poison myself. Their hands were tied and they couldn’t do anything about it. Now to see the looks on their faces knowing what I’d just accomplished. Talk about a gift.”

Veneto hopes that by pushing his cart at events like the Amy King 5K, he can pay it forward.

“I know there are a lot of people still suffering, because of (9/11),” he said. “If I can bring some people some hope, or at least some relief when they put their head down at night, for me, there couldn’t be a better gift.”

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Runners and walkers can still register for the Amy King 5K up until 10 a.m. Saturday at the Celoron Moose Club, located at 52 Dunham Ave. in the village.

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