In The Shadow of a Badge
Spirituality, Health & Healing, Memoir
Memoir about Flight 93, a Field of Angels, and My Spiritual Homecoming
Former law enforcement professional Lillie Leonardi has always lived with her feet planted in two separate worlds—the metaphysical and the physical. In the Shadow of a Badge, her previously self-published spiritual memoir, takes you on a dramatic journey of what happens when Leonardi's two very distinct realities become dangerously intertwined.
During her work at the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, surrounding the fateful events of September 11th, Leonardi is forced to confront her connection to the divine—something she has struggled with since her youth. Her gripping personal account of the 12 days she spent acting as an FBI liaison between the law enforcement and social service agencies carries you into a world that combines the factual and logistical with the angelic and mystical.
After witnessing what she describes as a "field of angels" during her first minutes at the crash site, Leonardi must finally reconcile the opposing sides of her life. We walk with her through the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, experience the guilt and fear that grip her, and witness the remarkable transformation of her soul as she discovers that forgiveness, of self and others, can be the best remedy. As an inspiring example of what it really means to be called to service, Leonardi shows that it's never too late to find your spiritual path and life's purpose.
This book is a reminder of those heroes, passengers of Flight 93 and what they did: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13. It is a reminder of a better place and that there is life after death. This book would help people who suffer from PTSD. And personally for me it was an encouragement to talk more to my children about God and angels and pray with them. And hopefully they will remember all we talk about now and it may help them go through some difficult moments in life just like Lillie's relationship and conversations with her Dad helped her.
P.S. I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review purposes.
Author's website: http://lillieleonardi.com/
Standing amid the wreckage of that downed plane in Shanksville, PA, she experienced a religious awakening that caused her to rethink her entire life for the next decade. From that day forward, she would no longer be able to choose between being a law enforcement agent or a spiritual pilgrim; instead, the event forced her to address the two separate sides to her life and make them whole.
In her memoir, In the Shadow of a Badge, Leonardi describes seeing angels at the crash site in Shanksville. Her interpretation of this event was that the angels were helping transition the passengers and crew of the plane to heaven and that they were also watching over the hundreds of law enforcement personnel who had arrived to investigate the scene.
Having experienced other angel sightings throughout her life, Leonardi was comforted by the sight. Yet working in a male-dominated field for her adult life led her to hide her spiritual self with her coworkers and most of the world. Only her immediate family and friends understood her devotion to the Catholic faith and how she reveled in it during quiet moments.
To her coworkers and to the outside world, she was simply a “Robocop,” and acted on calculated, intellectual reasoning alone, leaving little room for spiritual or emotional reactions. That tough-guy exterior may have helped her deal with the 12 days she worked at the crash site as a liaison with United Airlines and government agencies but it also forced her to stuff her emotions deep within.
Energy always seeks expansion so when you try holding back extreme emotion for too long, it will eventually cause havoc with the personality. In Leonardi’s case, the stifling of emotions both as a cop and as a first responder on 9/11 finally caused her to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That diagnosis (and her final acceptance of it) started her on a journey of self-discovery and healing that could help her finally quantify the two very distinctive sides of her personality.
Leonardi details her struggles with therapies to help manage her PTSD as well as her spiritual “coming out,” where she finally decides to publically share her experience in Shanksville. As part of that process, she began to allow herself to feel and act upon her intuitive/feminine persona which she had carefully controlled during her law enforcement tenure.
I am not Catholic and usually shut down mentally when I’m presented with too much religious dogma. Still, I selected In the Shadow of a Badge because I was interested in Leonardi’s experiences on 9/11. Like many Americans, the wounds inflicted on our country that warm fall day still feel fresh and raw even a decade later. I’ve read other firsthand accounts of supernatural events by first responders and wanted to see how Leonardi’s compared.
I’m also not a big believer in angels--the concept seems too Christian to me. So after I read a few pages into the book, I reminded myself that there is always something to learn and kept going to see what I could glean from the manuscript. Rather than discard the author’s message altogether, I instead went into an introspective state to clarify my own beliefs about angels and the afterlife. I have a way to go on that discovery.
I did pick out several important themes which are applicable to anyone who reads the book, whether they come from a religious background or not.
First, as I write a lot about in my blog, our world is created through beliefs. This fact is not lost on Leonardi as she deconstructed her experience in Shanksville. Universally, she understands that her beliefs are the most important thing in her life, which to her includes her deep Catholic faith. She sums it up this way:
“Our beliefs matter the most. If we accept our own inner strength, we can take the right action on behalf of ourselves and others. Our beliefs teach us to trust, and this trust guides our path.”
Another important lesson Leonardi learns through her post-9/11 life is that of safety and trust. Trust is a spiritual imperative and is the basis for living safely. The author brings up several examples of her deep trust and how it helped keep her safe during 25 years of police service. Calling on that trust became more important as she battled her PTSD. Her stories of trust and the help she received from the spiritual realm are inspirational and help others learn to trust their basic being.
Spiritual views aside, readers should take particular note of the author’s experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The disorder is a horrible residue of violent acts like 9/11, the wars in the Middle East and the recent shootings in Newtown. The general public needs to know about and understand the disorder which is beginning to affect larger numbers of people each year. I’m pleased the author shared so much of her journey with PTSD as it helps break down some of the stigma about the disorder.
Importantly, she shows that PTSD can sometimes be hard to recognize and slow to emerge as it can come about from stifling emotions for too long. Leonardi also talks about some of the current treatments for PTSD and discloses what worked and didn’t work for her.
What strikes me most with this book, however, is how difficult it appears to be to live a life that includes public spirituality. Many people sometimes feel it’s inappropriate to talk about--let alone display--a spiritual self. It feels too risky to share with others. We worry what others will think of us if we talk about our own spiritual selves outside of a church or the privacy of our homes.
When we ignore that part of ourselves that is connected to the divine, the divine will make itself known eventually. The energy allotted to spirituality, if not given an outlet, will seek expression, even if the means seem questionable as it did with Leonardi’s PTSD. A quick read of the author’s synchronistic events as she accepted both her PTSD diagnosis and her true spiritual self is inspiring.
In the Shadow of a Badge may not be for everyone. There is heavy dose of Catholicism intertwined within the pages and the author takes readers through some very personal and sometimes trivial details of her recovery. Still, if you’ve ever tried to hide your religious or spiritual beliefs in public, this may be a good read and reminder of the amazing things that can happen when you integrate spirituality into your daily existence.
FTC Disclosure notice
I received this copy of the book for free from Hay House Publishing for review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
The beautifully illustrated cover of the book says, “A Memoir About Flight 93, a Field of Angels, and My Spiritual Homecoming.”
If you are looking for a memoir about Flight 93 from an FBI perspective, you will not find it here. Bureau policy mandates that no classified or sensitive information be revealed, and Ms. Leonardi explains this in a succinct closing note. She is highly professional in keeping any FBI-related information general and generic.
If you are looking for an in-depth story about the field of angels, you will also not find that here. The vision she was given that she shares is incredibly powerful, profound, and pointed. The book is spent on her processing the vision and its effect on her life, rather than on the vision itself–which fulfills the purpose of her book. I give it four stars out of five because I was looking for something else, but this is still a good book.
If you are looking for a supportive story of one person’s spiritual homecoming to encourage and inspire you with your own, drop everything and go get this book! (Click on any of the links below now, and finish reading this afterward. Really. I’ll still be here for you.) If you are looking for details and depth about the angels that were present at the crash site, this is not your source.
A very human example of the ever-present divine support on our spiritual journey through EarthSchool, this book is a beautiful reminder that God totally has our back. Every time we turn around, He is there–whether we see it at the time or not. Heck, He’s there whether we even turn around or not! After reading this book, I felt hugely Divinely supported and connected, and that my incredible human-ness and journey is something to embrace.
Hay House gifted me with this book in partnership with my honest opinion of it. Their Book Nook blogger program rocks, and I am grateful!