On Island Profile: Curtis Sliwa

April 11, 2005 — Curtis Sliwa arrived in St. Croix on Friday, April 8. He joined fellow Guardian Angels already on island conducting classroom management workshops. First invited by the St. Croix Anti-Crime Task Force in October 2004, the Guardian Angels have successfully established a local chapter of the volunteer organization. Sliwa officiated at the graduation ceremony for the first class at Sand Castles on the Beach Sunday. (See "First Angels Are Graduating on St. Croix").
This is not Sliwa's first visit to St. Croix. Several years ago, he and his wife, Lisa, came to St. Croix to take advantage of two of the most abundant natural resources St. Croix offers – peace and quiet.
"My wife chose to come here; we chose it because it was secluded and I could be anonymous," Sliwa says as he lounges by the beach waiting to go to a radio interview. Sliwa says mob families targeted him and sent three guys to attack him with baseball bats. Just a few weeks later, Sliwa was shot five times while riding in a New York taxicab.
"I was not recovering well. I was shot with five hollow-point bullets at close range. The bullet hits you and shreds. It was a mess." Sliwa said the attacks took an emotional as well as a physical toll on him.
Sliwa said the Gotti and Gambino crime families were responsible for the attacks on him, but it took a long time for the police and the public to believe his story. John Gotti Jr. was eventually indicted in the incident. Sliwa, a co-host on one of the top-rated morning news/talk radio shows in New York City, had repeatedly denounced the mob as a menace to society. Sliwa said the mob wanted to silence him.
He spent several weeks on St. Croix recuperating. "I was totally disconnected. No one knew who I was; I could walk around in peace. I took the time I needed to recover."
Sliwa said when he was told that residents of St. Croix wanted to start a chapter of the Guardian Angels, he was excited to be able to help the island. "I remembered the fond memories I had. I owed a great deal to St. Croix.
The Guardian Angels have been in existence for 26 years, with Sliwa at the helm and being involved in each new chapter and getting to know all the volunteers on a personal level.
Sliwa said his mother and father always told him that he could make a difference in this world if he would just work hard. "They constantly told me that I could make a difference. They said if you believe in something you can do it."
He applies the same basic approach with his volunteers. "I tell the volunteers that you will fail nine out of ten times, but that one success is what will power the next one."
Sliwa says his organization brings out the hidden potential in people.
"What drives me is that I see the result of the work. We take young people and tell them this is the best opportunity you will have to make a difference, if you've had problems before, here is your chance to start over. I believe in the power. Most change comes from everyday people."
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