"Including myself," added the nation's first black president.
A source, speaking on grounds of anonymity because plans were still under way, told The Associated Press that Kennedy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. At the eternal flame rests four Kennedy family members, including the former president, Jacqueline Kennedy, their baby son, Patrick, who died after two days, and a still-born child. Former Sen. Robert Kennedy F. Kennedy is buried a short distance away.
Kennedy's only run for the White House ended in defeat in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter turned back his challenge for the party's nomination. More than a quarter-century later, Kennedy handed then-Sen. Barack Obama an endorsement at a critical point in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, explicitly likening the young contender to President Kennedy.
To the American public, Kennedy was best known as the last surviving son of America's most glamorous political family, father figure and, memorably, eulogist of an Irish-American clan plagued again and again by tragedy. But his career was forever marred by an accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969, when a car he was driving plunged off a bridge, killing a young woman.
Kennedy's death triggered an outpouring of superlatives from Democrats and Republicans as well as foreign leaders.
Vice President Joe Biden said he was "truly, truly distressed by his passing" and said that in the Senate, Kennedy had restored his "sense of idealism."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the conservative Republican from Utah, called Kennedy "an iconic, larger than life United States Senator whose influence cannot be overstated."
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest-serving senator, said: "I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the lost of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy."
Kennedy's family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.
"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," it said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all."
A few hours later, two vans left the famed Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port in pre-dawn darkness. Both bore hearse license plates -- with the word "hearse" blacked out.
Several hundred miles away, flags few at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol, and Obama ordered the same at the White House and all federal buildings.
In his later years, Kennedy cut a barrel-chested profile, with a swath of white hair, a booming voice and a thick, widely imitated Boston accent. He coupled fist-pumping floor speeches with his well-honed Irish charm and formidable negotiating skills. He was both a passionate liberal and a clear-eyed pragmatist, willing to reach across the aisle.
He was first elected to the Senate in 1962, taking the seat that his brother John had occupied before winning the White House, and served longer than all but two senators in history.
His own hopes of reaching the White House were damaged -- perhaps doomed -- in 1969 by the scandal that came to be known as Chappaquiddick. He sought the White House more than a decade later, lost the Democratic nomination to President Jimmy Carter, and bowed out with a stirring valedictory that echoed across the decades: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."
Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in May 2008 and underwent surgery and a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.
He made a surprise return to the Capitol last summer to cast the decisive vote for the Democrats on Medicare. He made sure he was there again last January to see his former Senate colleague Barack Obama sworn in as the nation's first black president, but suffered a seizure at a celebratory luncheon afterward.