As former police officer, Amanda Willows, sat at the traffic light outside of McKee’s Family Restaurant on a cold February night, she never imaged a few seconds later her life would change forever. A reckless decision, made by a drunk driver, closed doors to a career Amanda had always dreamed of, yet opened new doors to a life that would change hundreds of others lives in a way she never imagined.
Born into a military family, Amanda grew up in Idabel, OK, before moving to Paris in 2002 and starting her career as an emergency medical technician in Texarkana. After her family was affected three time by drunk drivers, Amanda felt a calling to do more and signed up for the Police Academy soon after. While in the academy, she worked as a dispatcher in Mt Pleasant before being hired on with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office.
“I remember the day I started working as a dispatcher very vividly; it was the day after 9/11. I’ll never forget that day and how I felt knowing I was doing the right thing. I worked at the LCSO until 2005 before taking a contract job with Homeland Security where I stayed for two years.”
In 2007, Amanda returned to her first love, as an officer with the Reno Police Department. However, it was only a short year later her life changed forever and ultimately a night that ended the career she loved so much.
“On February 22nd, 2008 while working night shift, I was headed to meet some fellow officers at McKee’s for a quick break. I had stopped to get some fuel and was at the traffic lights to turn into McKee’s when a drunk driver blew through the red light, over 70mph, and hit me in front of all the other officers.”
Totally destroying her patrol car, Amanda was taken to hospital and released later that evening, expecting to fully recover. However, they later discovered a shunt she had prior to that night was completely torn on impact. Despite the injuries, Amanda returned to work on light duty before resuming her normal duties not long after. However, the “minor injuries” at the time of the accident proved to be much more serious long term.
“While on patrol one evening, I was driving behind a vehicle and couldn’t read their license plate; I knew something wasn’t right. The local doctors sent me to Dallas straight away where we discovered I had swelling on the brain and my optic nerves were huge; explaining why I couldn’t see.”
“There’s so many little things you take for granted when you have perfect vision, but I am so thankful to have met my husband, Dave, during this time. He helped bring me back to life and helps me every single day.”
Doctors decided to operate and perform a lumbar shunt to try to control the pressure, however, it failed and Amanda (once again) almost lost her life. “They decided to put a shunt in my head but by the time it was done all vision loss was permanent; I lost all the vision in my left eye and all the peripheral in my right.” Amanda was left “legally blind” and was forced to retire in 2010.
Understandably, she was destroyed and left quite depressed, trying to not only come to terms with her new life and medical condition, but the fact she’d never work or drive a car again. “There’s so many little things you take for granted when you have perfect vision, but I am so thankful to have met my husband, Dave, during this time. He helped bring me back to life and helps me every single day.”
In 2014, Amanda decided to go back to school and not only earned her Bachelors in Criminology, but Masters degree also. While working on her Masters, Amanda and Dave took a trip to South Africa (where Dave was from) and during their stay there was an attack at the mall in Nairobi. “It really grabbed my attention because witnesses said one of the people in charge of the attack was a woman. I started researching and after I graduated with my Masters degree, one of my professors told me about a Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism degree at the Angelo State University; I applied and was accepted.”
In 2017, Amanda graduated with a Master’s in Security Studies (with an emphasis on National Security). She had come a long way from that fateful night that changed her life forever only nine short years earlier; but she had no plans of stopping anytime soon.
During her final year of college, Amanda felt called to help her brothers and sisters in blue after the attack on police in Dallas in 2016. “I couldn’t sleep one night and had gotten a text from Eric Gibbs. He said to look at what Hopkins County was doing with adopting officers to get them vests and I thought it was brilliant, so I reached out to Brandi Leber and it went from there.”
With the help of Coleman Morris, on July 26th 2016 the Lamar County Adopt-A-Cop program was launched and the response from the local community was nothing short of a miracle. “We had 132 officers on our list and in less than 48 hours we had raised enough money to adopt ALL officers. We were blown away by the community and their support for local law enforcement and couldn’t be more grateful.”
The Lamar County Adopt-A-Cop program (initially) raised money for Level 4 Ballistic Vests; a vest desperately needed but lacked funding. Officers wear Level 3 vests daily, however, the Level 4 vests provide protection for high powered riffle rounds. With all the officers adopted, Amanda could have just stopped there and returned to her studies; but she didn’t.
“During that time, right before the Dallas shooting, there was an ambush on officers in Louisiana and the offenders took head shots as they knew the officers had Level 4 vests on. That’s when we decided to raise money for helmets and the community, once again, quickly came together and got it done.”
Volunteering as the President of the Lamar County Adopt-A-Cop, Amanda plans on continuing to help all first responders in any way she can. “We’ve been able to help several officers replace their Level 3 vests, provide several Trauma Kits (necessary bandaging for gun shot or stabbing wounds) and help with funding towards training for active shooter situations.”
On top of all the countless hours spent raising money and promoting their organization, Amanda and the Lamar County Adopt-A-Cop has once again gone a step further; protecting ALL first responders. “We were able to provide 26 vests for Fire and EMS to have on them at all times. There have been several fireman and EMS injured on active shooter scenes and we want all those who put their lives on the line for us to be protected.”
With a heart to help others and no plans of “officially” retiring anytime soon, Amanda and her husband, also took ownership of Minor Professional Football League team, Northeast Texas Raptors, in 2016. “We had originally volunteered for another team and during that time we noticed that sometimes athletes from smaller schools don’t always get the exposure they deserve. We love being able to help them get that exposure in the Minor Football League and it also helps get these young men off the street, gives them a goal and another family.”
Without a doubt, our local community is blessed to have someone like Amanda, who goes above and beyond in any way she can to help those in need. While many have heard of the Lamar County Adopt-A-Cop program, most don’t know the story behind the lady that runs it and why her passion is so strong for all our first responders.
THANK YOU AMANDA WILLOWS for all you do for our community!!
Myparistexas.com are so honored to have featured Amanda in our first, Community Spotlight, feature. If you know of someone who you think deserves recognition for what they do, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO CREDIT: JOE WATSON, DILLON HARRED AND AMANDA WILLOWS