By David Jones
FORT LEE, New Jersey (Reuters) - Valerie Howard-Fadul recalled feeling "excruciating" pain after the anesthesia wore off, when her usual 45-minute drive home across the Hudson River after a medical eye treatment stretched into five hours in the now infamous bridge traffic jam orchestrated by aides of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Howard-Fadul, 55, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, was one of the motorists ensnared in last September's epic tie-up. She and others joined political activists on Tuesday to call for Christie's resignation - if he played a role in the traffic fiasco.
"You're the head chief, you're the captain of the ship," said Howard-Fadul, a writer who got stuck on her way home after receiving injections to treat an eye condition for partial blindness.
Federal prosecutors and the Democratic-controlled state legislature have opened probes into the incident last September, in which top aides to Christie ordered the closure of access lanes to the heavily trafficked George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson between New Jersey and Manhattan, triggering the jam.
Christie, seen as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has said repeatedly he was unaware of his aides' actions. They came amidst Christie's campaign for reelection, after the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the bridge, declined to endorse him.
Last month, after a landslide reelection victory, Christie fired his deputy chief of staff and severed ties with a longtime political adviser in connection with the lane closures.
On Tuesday, the small band of protesters and motorists assembled in a snow-covered park overlooking the bridge, wielding a petition with 14,000 signatures, calling for Christie to step down, if investigators find he knew about the apparent payback plan that paralyzed Fort Lee for four days.
Among those in attendance was New Jersey resident Corey Teague, whose Washington-based Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a left leaning political action group, helped organize the noon rally.
"The role of government is to help the people, but last September the Christie Administration used government to attack people," Teague said.
Christie's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)