Nineteen years ago today, time stood still. Communities gathered around one another as news broke.
America was under attack.
Two thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven lives were claimed on that day.
Having an immense history in law enforcement and first responding, Amanda Willows, a retired police officer and Lamar County Adopt-A-Cop president, said she will never forget that day.
Having just moved into a house north of Detroit, Willows said her home phone wasn’t connected just yet. She was set to start as a dispatcher and had to call the Mount Pleasant Police Department to get her time to report to work the next day.
After pulling up to the Detroit Superette to use its payphone, Willows said a young man walked out of the store and told her, “Can you believe this?”
“I remember his words clearly,” Willows said. “‘Amanda, you need to get back in your truck and turn on the radio.’”
As she sat in the truck and began listening, “I fell apart.”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen here. How did this happen here?” She said. “The strong sense of security we always had in our country had been stripped in one day. It literally changed everything for Americans.”
She said she was in complete ambivalence whether she should pick up her children from school, or “if I should leave them in school to let them have some normalcy for a while longer. Little did I know they were watching it at school too.”
After having called the Mount Pleasant Police Department, Willows said she rushed home to watch the news.
“I can’t describe the feeling I had when the towers fell,” she said. “The reality of how many lives were being lost at that moment was overwhelming. I literally felt sick and could not stop crying.”
Having a sense of pride and appreciation for the police, firemen, paramedics and even citizens running to the danger, instead of away from the danger, she said there was a fear of what was coming next.
“First responders, after just witnessing the loss of so many brothers and sisters,” she said, “still trying to save any lives they could. They gave so selflessly without hesitation.”
Willows said she felt a need, a want so badly to do something, but had no clue what she could do – she did what most Americans did that day.
“We prayed, we cried and we prepared for more,” she said.
Vince, her son, said he remembers getting off the school bus that day and watching as the family hung a large American flag on their home.
“It meant so much to me to start my new job the next day,” Willows said. “It was scary and I was so nervous, but I wanted to serve somehow. Everyone was on edge, wondering what was next and where it would be.”
Willows said America was filled with fear, but the fear quickly turned into solidarity and unity.
“I learned that we take so much for granted,” she said. “Life can change in the blink of an eye, just like we are seeing now in 2020.”