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Topeka woman remembers friend killed in 9/11 terrorist attacks

Updated: Sep. 11, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Aimee Copp-Hasty was working from her Brooklyn apartment Sept. 11, 2001, enjoying the sun and fresh air from an open window.

“It was probably the most beautiful September day we’d ever had,” Copp-Hasty recalls.

Out of the blue, her father called from Kansas, with the news that would plunge the bright day into darkness.

“He said, ‘Do you have the TV on?’ and I said, ‘No I’m working,’ and he said, ‘You need to turn it on. There’s been a horrible accident,’” she said.

They would soon realize it was no accident. As she watched the scene unfold, she knew that, on the 103rd floor of the first tower hit, was her friend Greg Rodriguez, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.

“He was so wonderful,”Copp-Hasty remembers her friend. “He always just took care of us. He was funny and smart and he loved to talk politics.”

Knowing his office was above the level the plane hit, Copp-Hasty and her friends huddled together, hoping to hear word that Greg somehow escaped the worst fate.

“(It was) absolute horror and panic,” she said. “We spent the next two days, all our friend group, putting up flyers everywhere we could. We were faxing hospitals his picture. We were trying to call emergency rooms.”

Three days after the attacks, Copp-Hasty was among four friends who joined Greg’s wife Elizabeth, his parents, and his sister at a meeting Cantor Fitzgerald called for loved ones.

“The very first thing (the man leading the meeting) said was, ‘We have now confirmed that everyone that showed up for work Tuesday is dead. They are dead.’ I will never forget that moment,” she said. “It was just devastating to know that every one of those people were killed, and Greg was one of those.”

Copp-Hasty admits she held a lot of anger for a long time. Twenty years later, she has come to terms with her grief and her fears. She said a helicopter circled outside her bedroom window for two years, patrolling the Brooklyn Bridge and Hudson River. It’s among the memories that are never far away. She says, even now, she cannot let go of the smell that hung in the air. She describes it as a mixture of fuel, burnt hair, plastic, and death.

“What I’ve learned is that your life can change in a minute, and we’re never guaranteed one more day,” Copp-Hasty said. “This was one of the most traumatic things that has ever happened in my life, and, for me personally, I think of my life pre 9/11 and post 9/11 because it completely changed the trajectory of my life.”

Copp-Hasty left the for-profit world of pharmaceuticals and returned to Kansas, pursuing work with non-profits. She now lives in Topeka and works for Valeo Behavioral Health.

Most of all, she says she is choosing to live - because of a friend lost.

“I have to make the best use of my life because, as I know, my friend Greg lost his at 31, and he has so many dreams and so many plans and he wasn’t able to fulfill those,” she said. “As friends, we know it’s our job to go on with our lives and use what we have, our time and talent, for good. That’s what I’ve tried to do since 9/11.”

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