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Colts Neck
Cantor Fitzgerald
Bond trader

Faced with a tragic loss, some people retreat into mourning. Others are inspired to act.

Patty Casazza could fairly be placed in the latter category.

A nursing student when her husband, John, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former Colts Neck resident soon found herself in the unfamiliar world of the activist, lobbying for changes to the federal compensation fund for victims' survivors and for an investigation into the attacks themselves.

"Basically weekly, daily, on the phone, writing e-mails, sending out letters, doing press conferences...All of which I'd never done in my life," Casazza, who did not return calls for an interview, said at a 2007 symposium in Connecticut.

Early on, Casazza joined forces with three other widows from Monmouth and Middlesex counties, a group that was later dubbed the "Jersey Girls."

Casazza and her friends advocated tirelessly for a governmental inquiry into the attacks, meeting with members of Congress, staging rallies and giving dozens of interviews. In November 2002, they got their wish when then-President George W. Bush signed into law the creation of the Sept. 11 Commission.

But that wasn't the end for the "Jersey Girls."

The four women religiously attended the commission's hearings, sitting through hours of testimony. Then, when the report was released in 2004, they pushed the federal government to act on the report's recommendations.

Their years of activism has earned them a fair share of controversy and criticism. They made waves in 2004 when they campaigned for presidential candidate John Kerry, criticizing Bush for what they said was his stonewalling on the creation of the Sept. 11 Commission and following through on its recommendations and for his decision to wage war in Iraq. In 2006, conservative commenter Ann Coulter dubbed the women "the witches of East Brunswick," a reference to the hometown of two of the widows.

Then at the 2007 symposium,Casazza claimed whistleblowers told her that the government knew the date, method and targets of the 2001 attacks before they occurred. She also claimed she had wanted these whistleblowers subpoenaed so they could testify before the commission, and was told they would be heard.

"And most were not heard," said Casazza.

None of this information made it into the commission's report, Casazza said at the time. And yet, when it was released, Congress members were quick to praise it, saying, she said, "What a fabulous job this commission has done. A real service to this nation."

"And it was anything but a service," she added. "It was a complete fabrication."

- Kim Predham Lueddeke

Wife Patty; son John Francis

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