MERON JUNCTION, Israel – A drawing of two perfect hearts, one in green crayon and the other in purple, lay in a roadside ditch, part of the debris from Sunday's deadly explosion on a bus traveling in the rolling hills of the Galilee.
Flames leapt into the air and metal flew across the road when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and eight passengers, shattering the morning quiet at a junction in northern Israel. Hamas claimed responsibility -- its second deadly bombing in five days.
Oshrat Amran, 17, from a nearby farming community, was standing with her fare in hand when Bus 361 pulled up at the bus stop at about 8:30 a.m.
"I was about to get on the bus when suddenly there was a bomb ... a lot of people came flying from the bus. I started running," she said from her bed in Sieff Hospital in Tsfat, where she was being treated for a back injury. "I thank God that he saved me. It's a miracle."
The powerful blast blew out the roof and sides of the green bus, charring the insides. A white, lace curtain hung askew from the driver's side.
The bus was filled with soldiers returning to bases after the weekend, students from a nearby Druse village on their way to enroll for college and ultra-Orthodox Jews returning from praying at the tomb of a revered religious leader, a short distance away.
Chaim Itzkovitch was leaving his house for work when he heard the explosion and raced to the scene on his bicycle.
"I could see flames in the air. Everything was quiet," the 50-year-old Itzkovitch said while fighting back tears. "I went into the bus through the door and I could see men and women lying on the floor."
A moment later, cries for help broke out among the dozens of wounded.
"There was a lot of screaming, horrible screaming inside the bus," said Avraham Freed, who owns a restaurant at the junction. "I saw one person on the ground next to the bus -- bodies, parts of bodies, people jumping through the windows."
Hours later, the smell of burnt metal and flesh still hung in the warm, midday air as police and ultra-Orthodox Jewish volunteers picked their way through the shattered glass and bloodied clothes to collect remains for evidence, and for burial.
Pinhas Cohen was standing barely 15 yards from the bus when it exploded.
"A soldier came out with his face and uniform covered with blood and two Arabs from the nearby restaurant gave him first aid," he said.
While violence is not unknown in the region, the area is not as turbulent as other parts of Israel.
"We go to [Arab] weddings and they come to our weddings," Freed said.
Israeli officials said the bus passed through several Arab towns and villages on its way from the port city of Haifa to the mountain town of Tsfat.