SMOLENSK, Russia - (AP) - The crash of an aging Russian airlinerravaged the top levels of Poland's military, political and churchelite Saturday, killing the Polish president and dozens of otherdignitaries as they traveled to a ceremony commemorating aslaughter that has divided the two nations for seven decades.
Poles wept before their televisions, lowered flags to half-staffand taped black ribbons in their windows after hearing thatPresident Lech Kaczynski and the upper echelons of theestablishment lay dead in woods a short drive from the site of theKatyn forest massacre, where 22,000 Polish officers were killed bySoviet secret police in one of Poland's greatest national traumas.
Thousands of people, many in tears, placed candles and flowersat the presidential palace in central Warsaw. Many called the crashPoland's worst disaster since World War II.
Twenty monks rang the Zygmunt bell at Krakow's Wawel Cathedral -the burial spot of Polish kings - a tolling reserved for times ofprofound importance or grief.
On board were the national bank president, deputy foreignminister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office,deputy parliament speaker, Olympic Committee head, civil rightscommissioner and at least two presidential aides and threelawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said. Kaczynski's wife,Maria, also died.
Meanwhile, in Greenpoint, which holds New York City's largest Polish population, residents of Polish descent attended a special Mass to mourn the president's death.