TODAY   |  April 11, 2010

Poland mourns loss of political leaders

Mourners are gathering in silent memorial to President Lech Kaczynski and the other 95 people killed in a devastating plane crash that many are calling the nation’s worst tragedy since World War II. NBC’s Tom Aspell reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we'll begin in europe with the day of mourning . today sirens rang as the country paused for two minutes of silence. while the bodies of the victims including that of the president began to arrive in poland from russia . tom asspell has the latest.

>> reporter: the tuf layoff was carrying lech kaczynski , his wife and dozens of govern the officials including all of the armed forces and security forces . it turned for final approach into smolensk and clipped some trees and hit the ground before bursting into flames. all 97 people onboard were killed. president kaczynski and the delegation were on their way to a memorial ceremony for 20,000 polish army officers murdered by soviet secret police during world war ii . the service went ahead with empty chairs for the polish officials. there was shock and grief. it is so terrible.

>> it is a great tragedy for our whole country.

>> reporter: flowers were laid outside government buildings and special masses were said throughout the country. the polish cabinet held an emergency meeting and declared a week of national mourning . president obama said the loss was devastating to poland , to the united states and to the world . russian president dmitri medvedev and prime minister vladimir putin lit candles of condolence near poland . putin left to smolensk to take charge of the investigation. russian officials say the air traffic controllers suggested kaczynski's flight divert to an alternative airport because of thick fog, but that the pilot decided to land at smolensk anyway, a decision that wind out the top echelons of the political and military establishment . for today today ," tom a spell, nbc news, london.

>> now here's lester.