Investigators dug through rubble looking for details, families buried their dead and a glass seller more than quadrupled his daily income on Sunday as Pakistan's capital began to clean out one day after the most powerful terrorist bomb in the country's history.
The government announced that 53 people had been killed in Saturday's bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which also injured more than 250 and destroyed the majority of the hotel's 300 rooms. Two Americans and the ambassador to the Czech Republic were among the dead.
In the rubble of the Marriott, a dozen vehicles sat crushed, their roofs caved in from the force of a 1,300-pound bomb. Investigators cleared out a crater 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep, large piles of mud, rocks and twisted metal sitting beside it. The lobby remained covered in debris, the former meeting point for Islamabad's elite reduced to scattered glass and marble.
"I don't know how I'm alive," one man told ABC News while standing a few hundred feet from the blast site, where he was working when the dump truck used in the attack hit the hotel's security gates. He says he barely escaped. "God saved my life."
The Interior Ministry released footage taken moments before the explosion showing a six-wheel truck ramming into the security gate just after 8 p.m. local time. At first a dozen or so security guards back away, but they eventually try to extinguish a fire that begins in the cab of the truck. The video cuts off before the large explosion.
"It is a direct hit on the integrity of Pakistan," Rehman Malik, the Interior Ministry chief, told ABC News in an interview late on Sunday. "We have become hostage in the hands of these terrorists."
Although no one has taken credit for the blast, al Qaeda, the Taliban and allied groups had been warning they would attack Pakistan's cities. Malik said that "all roads point to South Waziristan," the volatile tribal district along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where senior al Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding. Malik said the explosives included "military-grade" RDX and ammonium powder.
Earlier on Saturday, militants had ambushed two convoys in Waziristan, the first time they had launched a major attack on the military since agreeing to informal peace deals one year ago. The same militants have been blamed for making 2008 the most violent year for Western soldiers and Afghan civilians since 2001.
Security analysts here say the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their allies have never been stronger, using the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to recruit terrorists and to launch attacks in two countries. Saturday's attack was not the first time they reached deep into Pakistan's most secure areas -- and in so doing tried to influence government policy.
"I think the message is very clear," retired General Talat Masood, a former defense secretary, told ABC News. "Don't have any operations against us, military operations anywhere. Do not allow the Americans to interfere."
The United States has questioned Pakistan's willingness and ability to fight the militants, and just this month has launched at least seven ground and air assaults inside Pakistan's borders.