CONCORD, N.H. - A Barrington man who survived the devastating earthquake in China last week is back home, reflecting on his good fortune and feeling for the thousands of victims.
"My heart goes out to all the people who are still there," said John Cafasso, an engineer for Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, Maine, who was working in Chengdu, China, on May 12, when the quake hit.
The epicenter was about 60 miles away, but it shook his building and sent ripples through the ground outside that looked like ocean waves. It also jammed the streets with refugees and residents who fled to avoid buildings that could fall down.
Cafasso flew into Manchester on Friday night, relieved to be home after uneventful flights halfway around the world.
"Big time relieved," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Back at home, he said he had trouble sleeping Friday night, as he reviewed his tumultuous week.
"Looking at the news here at home, I'm saying: 'Good grief! I was right there in the midst of it,' " he said. "It was surreal. It's like almost a dream."
Cafasso's co-workers and friends in Chengdu all are fine, but he said that's not the case for the people in the hardest-hit area, which he visited just two days before the quake, hiking in an area of pagodas and temples.
"To have been there, in the whole area, just two days prior to - it really brought it home to figure that I was just so close, timewise, to being close to the epicenter," he said. "It was kind of unnerving."
He said he couldn't recognize the devastated area he visited from the news photos he saw afterward.
"It's just horrible to think that those same people, that same city, has been hit so hard," he said.
Cafasso was able to fly out of Chengdu the day after the quake, delayed at the airport by a stream of arriving relief flights.
He worked in the city of Shenyang for a day before flying to Beijing, then on to Chicago and into Manchester.
Back in China, thousands of earthquake victims fled areas near the epicenter yesterday, fearing floods from rivers blocked by landslides.
The confirmed death toll jumped yesterday to nearly 29,000 with many thousands still missing.
Just north of Chengdu, where Cafasso worked, the town square in Shifang has become a tent camp for 2,000 people. Many people walked in from surrounding towns with few belongings.