By Michael Ireland —
Lillie Leonardi served for over 25 years as a law enforcement professional. During her tenure she was employed as a municipal police officer, a chief of police and as a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pittsburgh Division.
She recently completed a book detailing a deeply spiritual event that took place at the site on 9-11. Entitled ‘In The Shadow Of A Badge: A Spiritual Memoir,’ the book reflects her story about a visitation of angels during the first hours at the crash site.
Lillie writes: “As we arrived at the crash site, the fire personnel with all of their trucks and equipment were just leaving. They had just finished extinguishing the fire that had ignited as a result of the plane’s jet fuel. As we drove past the vehicles with all of the personnel and apparatus hanging from the trucks, my eyes glanced at the many faces of the firefighters perched on their seats and ladders.
“As we left the safety of our vehicle, we began to walk the area of the crash site. The smell of fuel, of burning wood and smoldering pine hung low across the air. The smells were so thick that they burned my nose. It was hard to breathe.
“The light began to evolve into a foggy white mist. The white mist then began to take shape. It moved and swirled in patterns of spectacular white light. All at once, the mist took full shape and I saw what appeared to be angels. There were angels standing in the open area to the left of the crash site. There were hundreds of them standing in columns. There was a field of angels emerging from the realms of the mist. They were archangels with their wings arched up toward the sky.”
Lillie’s website states that prior to her career with the FBI, Lillie worked as the lead law enforcement officer on two college campuses located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was appointed the first female chief of police for Chatham University (1994) and the Director of Security for Carlow University (1992). In 1984, Lillie was appointed to serve as the first female police officer with the City of Arnold, Pennsylvania. While employed with the police department, she specialized in crimes against children investigations and crime prevention.
In an ABC News story about Lillie’s experience on 9/11, she argues her life has been changed more by what she didn’t see that day.
“The biggest thing for me is that that there were no bodies,” she said.
Leonardi, told ABC News she remembers the burning pine and jet fuel stinging her nostrils. She said she also remembers a smoldering crater littered with debris too small to associate with the jetliner or 40 passengers and crew on board.
“I’m used to crime scenes but this one blew me out of the water. It just looked like the ground had swallowed up” the plane, Leonardi said.
“That’s when I started seeing like shimmery lights … and it was kind of misty and that’s when I first saw, like, the angels there,” Leonardi said, adding:”And I didn’t say anything to the guys because you can imagine if I would have said, ‘I just saw angels on the crash site,’ they’d have called the office and they’d have said, ‘She lost her mind and tell her to go home.'”
Instead, Leonardi says she kept it to herself for the better part of two years.
The ABC News interview reveals that as emotional and physical ailments surfaced that she would later learn were post-traumatic stress disorder-related, Lillie began telling a close circle of friends and colleagues what she saw, including Kenneth McCabe, her former supervisor.
According to ABC News, McCabe, 59, now retired near Cocoa Beach, FL, was chief of the FBI’s operational response section, which sent laboratory teams to gather evidence from each of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror sites. A year or so later, he became the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office, making him Leonardi’s boss until he retired from the bureau in 2004.
“I believe her. I read the whole book,” McCabe told The Associated Press. “I know she believes 100 percent that’s what she saw. I know she’s a sane person so I’m not going to discount what she says she saw.”
McCabe said he also understood why the Flight 93 crash site was different than the other attack scenes.
“I was there one day when they brought a busload of family members to overlook the site … and I teared up,” McCabe said. “Just because these people had the thousand-yard stare. They didn’t have any closure. They didn’t have any bodies to look at. They didn’t have anything to look at. At least in New York and Washington, there was the devastation (of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon) but here, except for seeing someone off in the distance, in the woods, looking for things, there was nothing.”
ABC News revealed that Leonardi has befriended some Flight 93 family members, though none consented to be interviewed for the broadcast outlet’s interview. Asked about the book, the spokeswoman for the Families of Flight 93, Lisa Linden, issued a statement lauding the “extraordinary work” done by the FBI that also said, “The crash site and sacred ground – now central to the Flight 93 National Memorial – is a place that elicits powerful reactions from those who work at the site and who visit.”
The ABC News article goes on to say that the Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, counts Leonardi a personal friend and also interviewed her on his weekly radio show, Amplify.
“I have no reason to believe that she did not see angels,” Lengwin said. “I think it’s not surprising to me that God could choose to say that he was present there to give comfort to people, and to give comfort to the people who were there to give comfort to other people.”
ABC News stated that Leonardi still lives in Arnold, a tiny city about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh where she began her law enforcement career in 1984 as the town’s first female police officer. She said her primary reason for deciding to go public with her story after years of soul-searching is to heal and to bring comfort and healing to others affected either by the attack or post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The purpose of the book is to tell the story of the angels being there so that other people understand that God was there,” said Leonardi, who said she was raised a “devout Catholic” but now practices what she calls “spiritualism.”
Leonardi, who was a teen mother and wife, said she has no doubt about what she saw, but wonders why she was allowed to see it.
“You get pregnant and married at 16, that’s not exactly, you know, holy material,” said Leonardi, now a divorced grandmother. “To this day I know I saw those angels, I’ve never doubted that. What I doubted was, why me?”
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the National Park Foundation to aid in the construction of the Flight 93 National Memorial. To make a tax-deductible donation to support the Memorial go to www.honorflight93.org/donate.
You can read more about Lillie Leonardi at her website: www.lillieleonardi.com — Michael Ireland, ASSIST News