BUFFALO, NY; WARSAW, POLAND ( WKBW / CNN ) The body of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash in Russia over the weekend, returned to tributes in his homeland Sunday afternoon.
Soldiers in perfect step carried the casket from the plane that transported onto the tarmac, where mourners were waiting. Catholic priests recited prayers at the military airport before Kaczynski's daughter and twin brother, followed by others, took turns kneeling before the flag-draped casket.
People lined up along the streets along where Kaczynski's body would pass on its way to the presidential palace.
In Buffalo the second largest population of Polish-Americans in the United States are mourning the death of President Kaczynski and his wife. A memorial mass was held at Saint Stanislaus, the Mother Church of Polonia, on the east side of city.
Richard Solecki, President of the Polish American Congress WNY Division told Eyewitness News, "I talked to some of these people that were on the plane...I have photos, they're all gone. I mean these were all young people, future presidents of the country...they're all gone."
People gathered at the traditional meeting place Saturday at the Broadway Market, trying to piece together the tremendous loss for their country.
Sandy Schmid commented, "I was horrified. I couldn't believe that a whole plane like that could go down. There are no survivors."
Father Bocianowski of Saint Stanislaus Church said, "It is a very sad tragedy, a huge tragedy for the Polish people in Poland and also for Polonias in the world."
Governor David Paterson issued a statement extending deep sympathies to the people of Poland, the to the nearly one million Polish-Americans living in New York.
Senator Bill Stachowski issued a statement noting his personal roots. "As a Polish-American, I know firsthand how close the Polish people are, no matter where they are in the world. It is a sad day for us all."
Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski took over as acting president and declared it "a time for national mourning."
Kaczynski, 60, had been traveling with a Polish delegation to Russia for the 70th anniversary of the Russian massacre of Polish prisoners of war in the village of Katyn.
About 20,000 Poles, including soldiers and civilians, were executed there during World War II.
The Polish military plane carrying Kaczynski originated in Warsaw, the Polish Defense Ministry said.
It was just a few miles east of Katyn when it crashed around 10:50 a.m. (2:50 a.m. ET) on the outskirts of the town of Pechorsk, close to Smolensk, the Investigation Committee of the Russian prosecutor's office said.