The car wreck that critically injured Gov. Corzine also gave him a new lease on life, said two top state politicians who visited him yesterday.
Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts left a half-hour meeting with Corzine at Cooper University Hospital and said the governor is recovering well - and appears to be a changed man.
"He sounds very good and he feels very, very blessed that he's alive and well and able to continue his life," said Codey, the state Senate president. "He said to me, 'Dick, I've never been at peace with myself like I am now.' "
Codey said that Corzine told him he would leave the hospital on Tuesday or Wednesday, and would then take about another week to evaluate his energy level and physical condition before deciding when he could resume gubernatorial duties.
Corzine will do his rehabilitation at Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion in Princeton, said his communications director, Anthony Coley. A multimillionaire who takes a $1 salary from the state, Corzine will pay all his own medical bills, Coley said.
State workers have been installing fiber-optic cable in the governor's office to allow Corzine the ability to video-conference, Codey said.
The governor remained in stable condition yesterday, with no sign of complications. An intravenous line that had been providing him with fluids has been removed, Codey said.
Corzine broke 11 ribs, his left femur, breastbone and collarbone and spent a week on a ventilator after the April 12 accident.
Codey and Roberts, both Democrats like Corzine, were the first people to visit Corzine outside of his family and a few staff members.
Codey said the accident has brought Corzine closer to his three children and his girlfriend, Sharon Elghanayan. He said Corzine was so pleased with his care at Cooper that he had arranged for some of the hospital's physical therapists to continue working with him at Drumthwacket. Before the accident, Corzine split time between Drumthwacket and a Hoboken condo.
When Codey tried to bring up policy yesterday, Corzine told him, "I don't really care about that right now." And when they discussed a negative newspaper story, Codey said Corzine's response was, "I don't care about those anymore."
Corzine remembers the crash "very well," Codey said; the governor said he was writing notes when the accident happened.
Corzine was not wearing a seat belt and the state trooper driving his SUV, Robert Rasinski, was doing 91 m.p.h. seconds before the accident on the Garden State Parkway.
Codey and Roberts said the seat-belt issue never came up in the meeting. But they said Corzine regards the state troopers who were with him that day as "heroes."
Corzine was impressed that Rasinski steered the SUV so that the governor would not bear the brunt of the guardrail, and said that one of the troopers put out a fire caused by the accident, Roberts said.
State police yesterday confirmed that a small fire erupted after the crash in Corzine's SUV. No one was injured by the flames or smoke, and the fire was put out immediately. They had not previously acknowledged the blaze.
Roberts said Corzine had a strong voice and appeared healthy. "I expected to see him being, frankly, tentative or frail," he said, but that was "absolutely not the case."
"The little stuff is going to matter less" to Corzine, Roberts added, "and I think he has a much broader view of the world."
On Thursday, Corzine had allowed the Associated Press to photograph him for the first time since his accident. He pronounced himself "the most blessed person who ever lived."