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Lillie Leonardi Headshot

Crossroads

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Changing careers in midlife is not an easy transition for anyone -- especially once you've hit the over-50 classification and acquired your first AARP card. Prior to the arrival of the big 5-0, it was a subject I gave little thought to or worried about. That is, until my world came crashing down around me and I woke up one morning to find my life had been permanently and irrevocably altered.

These many months and years of economic decline has brought all too many midlifers to a turning point in their lives. Their direction, once set on a straight parallel of travel, was intersected by all too many fast-moving vehicles. Their Global Positioning System (GPS) appeared to go haywire, and many found themselves lost and without an inkling of how to regain their sense of direction.

After spending almost 26 years as a law enforcement professional, I too found myself lost in an area of unfamiliar territory. Despite my every attempt to reroute my life, I was left stranded with no ability to turnaround. In other words, my pink slip had arrived and I was discharged from duty because of my medical inability to perform. My ill health now prevented me from working the job I had loved and one in which seemed to identify my very person. It was a position I cherished and one which allowed me to contribute to humanity by serving in the best interest of my fellow man.

In those first months of trying to determine which direction to travel, I found solace in writing my thoughts and feelings on many a yellow lined, legal-sized tablet, a practice which I had completed for some 40 years time. The notebooks accumulated over time and lined the upper shelves of my bedroom closet. Some were very dusty after many years of neglect and others were on the top of the pile with little wear and tear. So, as I pondered the present situation, I kept hearing the soft whispers of a promising future. A future which encompassed the past practices and many years of penning my innermost reflections.

As I turned inward to decide how to proceed, I recalled the advice I had given many before. When I mentored young people who thought they might be interested in choosing a career in law enforcement, I would inevitably end the discussion by advising them to match their passion with their career. If they followed these few words of advice, in time all would fall into place.

With this same advice in mind, I questioned myself, "What am I passionate about?" The singular word which kept reiterating in the small spaces of my mind was, "writing." I contemplated the word and decided not to question it. After all, it had been an important aspect of my life for these many years.

In the years which followed the onset of my illness, I wrote incessantly. Initially, as a form of healing to cradle my emotions and frame my behaviors. The writing was therapeutic. Over time, the words merged into pages. Then, the pages formed into chapters. And in time, the chapters transformed into a complete story. Each day, the pages were added one to the other and before too long my story became a book.

The experience of writing was cathartic. For I had related the tale of 9/11 and my involvement while serving in my professional capacity at the Flight 93 crash site. All of the faces, places and details were jotted down and converted into my first book.

On November 11, 2011, I launched my first book and felt elated at the prospect of a new-found career. Now, I find myself standing at the crossroads of a road yet traveled and joyful at the aspect of throwing all caution to the wind and my GPS as well.

"In The Shadow Of A Badge " reflects my story about an angelic visitation during my initial moments at the Flight 93 crash site located in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is a first-hand account of the spiritual experience I encountered while serving in my professional capacity as the Community Outreach Specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pittsburgh Division. What I saw and/or heard is a personal interpretation of the events leading up to and following 9/11 and, in particular, the Flight 93 crash. The book also details my on-going journey of personal healing and recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following my experiences that day, as well as some significant historical facts.