Carlos DeMolina is a freelance sports television producer for many clients, such as Fox Sports, Showtime, CBS Sports and others.
He was born and raised in New York in the Bronx, but he moved to Puerto Rico during his high school years with his parents, who were entertainers. He then returned to the city and graduated from Syracuse University in 1988 with a degree in Television Radio and Film Production.
Later, DeMolina became a producer for NBC Sports, and he was working in 30 Rock during the terrorist attack of the World Trade Center on Sep. 11, 2001. “When I hear someone say that it was twenty years ago, it’s crazy because it feels like yesterday,” recalled DeMolina.
Emotions were still very raw for DeMolina, as they are for many Americans, especially those who experienced this attack firsthand. While we are coming upon the twentieth year since the attack, this event still deeply affects our country and the American people today.
DeMolina was working on the NASCAR Package at the time; he was one of the first people to arrive at Rockefeller Center that morning. The Today Show played in the background, and alerts began to flood in regarding a plane crash at the World Trade Center. The first plane hit at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time. However, it was still unclear what was truly happening.
Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports, rushed into DeMolina’s office, urging him to leave the building. In a world before remote working, DeMolina began to write down his work assignments in a notebook and use his work phone to call his wife.
Now outside the building, DeMolina found his colleagues, and they planned to get coffee before working from home for the day. At this time, it was still unclear that it was an attack on the United States. Ebersol then found them, urging them to find a way home. At the time, DeMolina lived in Queens.
DeMolina then walked down Sixth Avenue. He looked downtown from a distance and saw the twin towers for the first time since the first plane crash; this was the last time he saw the towers. All he saw was smoke billowing from the scene. Stunned, he and his colleagues continued to rush to the subways.
They passed by an electronic center; DeMolina saw The Today Show airing a shot from the second plane crash on one of the screens. The second plane hit at 9:03 a.m. E.T. One of the billboards in New York aired the attack of the Pentagon as well.
“It hit me that this is not a mistake. It is not an accident,” stated DeMolina.
Now underground, DeMolina found a train back to Queens. He could see the World Trade Center from afar, but the towers were no longer there.
“I remember getting back from the platform and by habit looking down towards the towers, and they weren’t there. All I saw was smoke…all I could say was ‘they’re gone’…those aren’t towers. They’re people,” stated DeMolina.
DeMolina called his wife on a payphone, and they picked up their son from school, as well as helping one of his colleagues return home.
“There were a lot of kids that weren’t leaving and didn’t know what was going on,” said DeMolina.
Public transportation was now cut off in New York at this time, and many of the parents of these children were likely stuck in the city or in the World Trade Center that day.
Moving forward from this tragedy, DeMolina stayed in the city, like many other New Yorkers. From his apartment in Queens, he could see the spotlights shining from the empty space that the twin towers once filled.
“There were some days where I would look down at night, and I swear I could still see the towers,” explained DeMolina.
He and his wife spent their summers in Breezy Point, where many first responders lived and vacationed. Coping with this immense loss brought hardship for his entire community. These first responders sacrificed their lives, leaving behind their own families, to ensure other New Yorkers wouldn’t have to do the same.
Despite the loss that weighed down the hearts of the American people, the spirit of New York, and the country as a whole, was not going to be broken from this tragedy.
“They’re not gonna do this to us. They’re not gonna take away our normal way of life,” stated DeMolina.
Everything in New York shut down for around a week. When he returned to work, DeMolina had to drive underground through the Midtown Tunnel, where many were concerned about potential terrorists. However, he did not allow this fear to control his way of life.
“This is what they want. They want you to not live your life. That’s what true terrorism is…to change your way of life and to control how you think,” explained DeMolina.
30 Rock was also on the hit list on Sep. 11, 2001. Window watchers at Rockefeller Center saw the plane skim over the building. DeMolina was in his cubicle at that time.
DeMolina also had to fly to Phoenix a couple of weeks after the attack for a NASCAR event. There was only one other passenger on the flight with him.
“The physical act of walking onto a plane…it was a threshold you had to go through to sort of continue your normal way of life,” said DeMolina.
Sports resuming was another way the country was able to unify after the tragedy. Baseball was the first sport to start back. Mike Piazza of the Mets hit a home run, beating the Braves in the first game since the attack.
This was a win not just for New York but for our country. For many people, sports was the first public event they attended since the attack.
During the World Series of 2001, President Bush threw out the first pitch in the Yankee Stadium from the mound.
“The President of the United States going out by himself to the pitcher’s mound with nobody around him, basically a month and a half after a terrorist attack on the country, and throws a strike down the middle of the plate,” recalled DeMolina.
While DeMolina has not set foot on the ground of the World Trade Center since this tragedy, he did mention the yearly memorial. Twenty years later, the children are now reading the names of their loved ones who died during this tragedy. He also expressed his appreciation for the Freedom Tower.
“[If] you look at [the Freedom Tower] at the right angle, sometimes you almost can see both towers in that one,” stated DeMolina.
DeMolina also noted the overwhelming unity of the city and the country at that time. More people have died from COVID-19 this past year and a half than during the tragic September attack. However, there has been more division in our country, especially politically.
“That’s what was so disappointing, and still continues to be disappointing, over this last year and a half. [It’s] how splintered the country has gotten over everything whereas it should have been something that brought unification more so than ever,” described DeMolina.
We have fallen so far into our selfish ambitions that we forget the beauty of loving one another and being there for the people around us.
“I’m hopeful this will never happen again in this country, but I’m fearful that it could…just as people stop paying attention to things and people keep splintering,” stated DeMolina.
When remembering Sep. 11, twenty years later, we must be continually conscious of the lessons we learned that day. We can be unified again.
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