The explosions. I couldn't help but notice them as I walked about the streets in downtown Damascus in August 2015.
Life would be proceeding normally — shopkeepers selling food, honking cars, couples holding hands, kids running around — and then I would hear a boom.
I had come to Syria to find out what life was like for the Christian communities — about 10% of the population before the war.
Christians have lived in Syria for over 2,000 years — Jesus walked, preached, and taught on this land according to the Bible — but the ongoing conflict has been so brutal that I wondered if that history might come to an end.
A few days after my arrival, I was standing outside my hotel when I saw a wedding party heading to the al-Zaitoun Greek Catholic Church, only a few steps away.
The cheerful celebration against the background of a war formed a striking contrast. I grabbed my camera and followed them.
I thought I could pass for one of the wedding photographers if I kept taking pictures.
All of a sudden I could have been at a wedding anywhere, away from the fear and violence.
What are the plans for the future of this young couple, I wondered.
Have they given any thought to emigrating as so many Syrians are doing?
Do they still feel welcome here, a land they've inhabited for over two millennia?
“It's not our country anymore," one wedding guest told me. “Islamists terrorize us to make us leave," his friend added.
I heard a similarly somber assessment from a priest: “There is no side [in this war] interested in the future of Christians. We are the sacrifice of the war."
“The war has made life dangerous and expensive," observed a father of teenager and a young daughter. “Every day when we go out of home, we don't know if we come back."
But with the conflict in its fifth year, some parents are beginning to think there is no future for their children or it is too dark. “Children stopped going to school or are terrified if they still go," one parent said.
“We are thinking of leaving because we are very tired, but no one gives us visas," complained one guest, a retired economist.
I asked if there was anything the West could do to help. “Stop supporting the opposition, stop supporting armed groups in Syria," was a recurring answer.
At the end of the night, minibuses — Damascus's ubiquitous mode of public transportation — picked up some guests.
The newlyweds left last.
During my time in Syria, I saw just how deep Christianity's roots ran. My hotel was on the same street where the apostle Paul was baptized. In one village I visited, Sadad, the people still speak Aramaic, the language of Christ.
While this long history is threatened, the spirit of these people helps me believe that it may still survive the violent challenges it faces now.