The fight for Syria's future came to the center of Damascus Thursday. Two car bombs killed a reported 55 people and injured at least 372 more. It is the deadliest bomb attack since the uprising in Syria began in March, 2011.
It is necessary but grim work. Emergency crews clear up the debris that's scattered across the roadway. With each scrape across the charred pavement, the shovels pick up burnt metal, bits of clothing and even human flesh.
Nearby, the shells of what used to be more than twenty cars and buses show just how powerful these bombs were. So too do the two craters, each several feet deep. The bombs hit just outside a huge military intelligence building, ripping off its faÃ§ade. But the blasts shattered windows and lives many yards away.
Men at a small garage are trying to pull away metal sheeting that landed in front of the entrance. The owner sits inside, staring in disbelief at the scene around him.
"It sounded more than an earthquake than an explosion," the man said.
The first explosion hit just before 8:00 as he, his wife and three daughters slept. He grabbed his children and moved them back just before the second blast laid waste to their bedrooms. Everyone is alive — he kisses his hands then raises them upward in gratitude.
"Eh, Hamdilluah, Oh my God thank you," he said.
But with so many others dead and wounded, there is anger aimed at those he blames — other nations who support the opposition.
"This is their gift to us?" he asked. "Is this democracy, is this freedom? I don't think this is freedom and think this is a conspiracy against my country."
At a military hospital, the first casualties came in within minutes.
One soldier who didn't want to give his name, lay in his hospital bed, his face and legs pockmarked with shrapnel wounds. He said his back has deep bruises and his feet are wrapped in bandages. He was in the military building when the blasts hit. He made it out to the street and found a gruesome scene.
"There were cars that were burned out completely, there was fire all around us, he says. All the houses across the road were smashed. There were people buried under the rubble, including women and children," he said.
This is the latest, and by far the worst in a series of bombings in Damascus in the last several weeks.
Doctor Majid Hassan, tending to another soldier, said it represents a new and alarming shift in what has already been a long and violent uprising.
Back at the scene of the bombings, the cleanup continues as do the questions about just who was behind them. As much as people here blame terrorists supported by foreign interests, the opposition insists it's a government operation aimed at discrediting them.
Whatever the truth, today's assault on one Damascus neighborhood drives the chances for peace back even further.