Nearly 100 uniformed flight attendants and their supporters laid two large wreaths at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza Saturday to call attention to the sacrifices made by the crews of the four airliners that were hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I needed to make a national recognition for these crew members,” said Paul Veneto, 62, who arrived in lower Manhattan after pushing a replica beverage cart all the way from Boston.
“They were the first responders of 9/11,” Veneto, a former United Airlines crew member, said. “These flight attendants were the first ones to go hand-to-hand combat with the terrorists that morning.”
Veneto was close to many of the crew members of United Flight 175, the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11 after taking off from Boston’s Logan Airport.
“The flight crew members were heroes,” Veneto said. “And over 20 years we never heard anything about these crew members, never recognized them as heroes.”
Veneto has set up a charity organization called Paulie’s Push to honor the 33 pilots and flight attendants who were slain in the attacks. He hit the road on Aug. 21 to make the 240-mile trek to Ground Zero — trudging through the remnants of two hurricanes, Henri and Ida, to get to New York in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“I want all their relatives, their cousins and brothers, their aunts and uncles — all of them to hear it from all of us in this country that we recognize them for what they did that day,” he said.
Follow our 9/11 20th Anniversary coverage here:
United flight attendant Brandee Chylinski appreciated the effort.
“It’s still so painful,” she said. “It’s an honor to be here to bring attention to the flight attendants. That morning, they were the very first victims.”
Ralph Bagarella was the president of the Boston branch of the Association of Flight Attendants on 9/11. Saturday was his first return to New York since the aftermath of the attacks.
“It’s hard for me to express,” he said, holding back tears. “We knew each other. They were my friends.
“We are going to continue to do this — to recognize them forever.“