Former law enforcement professional Lillie Leonardi was at the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, during the first few minutes of this fateful event on September 11, 2001. Her gripping personal account of the 12 days she spent acting as an FBI liaison between the law enforcement and social service agencies is chronicled in her new book, In the Shadow of the Badge. In this letter to her deceased father, you’ll find that Lillie came to grips with something more than the facts and logistics of that life-changing day.
 

Dear Dad,

I just wanted to take a moment and extend my deepest gratitude to you for all you did for me. You were an excellent father and friend. I am extremely grateful to you for all of the gifts you gave us, your children and your family. You provided us with a wonderful mentor and taught us about love, life, integrity, and values. You inspired us to become the best that we could be. You often told us that we children were your “gold and silver in this life.” I hope that you are looking down and seeing us shine in your light. You planted the seeds, and now you are watching us grow. We have grown into your mirrored image. I hope you relish all of our successes, for they are your legacy.

Also, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to teach me about God. You taught of God’s endless love and forgiveness for His children. You preached that God continued to love us even in the times in our lives when we faltered and strayed from the path He had designed for us. You read us the stories of the Bible and provided insight into the wonders of God’s mercy. You allowed us the opportunity to dream and hope for a better life.

As a result of your teachings, on a fateful day more than ten years ago, I reached into the vast recesses of my soul and cried out to God for His help. Oh, and did He respond. God sent the world the gift of His angels. The angels I read about as a child and often believed that I saw. I did see them that day, in all of their brilliance and light. On September 11, 2001, God extended His hand and surrounded the world with his infinite love and guardianship. He sent His angels to protect those of us responding to the Pennsylvania crash site of Flight 93, and to gently carry the victims to His heavenly home. He provided passage and comfort to those who had sacrificed their lives in the name of honor. I was privileged to have observed the magnitude of His mercy and love.

I now release the story of Flight 93 and the field of angels in honor of my two fathers. In the worst moments of my life, I felt the presence of both my heavenly and earthly fathers’ love, kindness, and patience. As you look down from Heaven, Dad, I hope you are proud. I hope that you smile and look around and say, “That’s my daughter.” For I look around on a continuous basis and say, “Look at all my father has bestowed upon me.” I have been truly blessed.

Rest easy, Daddy, I’ll see you when I see you. . . .

Lillie Leonardi worked in law enforcement for more than 25 years before retiring to pursue her lifelong dream of writing.