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At a shuttered GM plant, frustration, confusion...and flowers

The Willow Run Transmission plant in Michigan will close in late 2010, bringing uncertainty to the people and the places that built their lives around America's largest automaker.

UAW Local 735 President Don Skidmore, (c.), sits with his wife Dawn, (l.), and retiree Larry Clark in his office Monday after GM announced that it would close the Willow Run Transmission Plant in Ypsilanti in December 2010, shedding 1,100 jobs.

David Guralnick/Detroit News/Newscom

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The flowers that keep appearing on Don Skidmore’s desk were not sent in celebration. They arrived to mourn a loss.

“Lots of love today. I’m blessed,” says Mr. Skidmore.

He would rather not be so fortunate. As president of the United Auto Workers Local 735 in Canton, Mich., Skidmore helped deliver the news Monday morning to 1,100 workers at the Willow Run Transmission Plant: They would lose their jobs in December 2010. General Motors would close the plant after operating it for 56 years.

After workers learned the news, a peculiar thing happened: They applauded. “Our people have class,” he says. “It’s a cold-hearted company.”

It is a desperate company, and until Monday the Willow Run Transmission Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., shared that purpose. Now, it provides a glimpse inside the 17 communities that found themselves still standing when GM stopped the music Monday.

Pride and frustration

There are equal measures of pride, frustration, and confusion, as workers try to comprehend why their plant was the one that GM no longer wanted. Yet above all, there is uncertainty for the people and the places that built their lives around America's largest automaker.

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