A grieving father leads a sea of cyclists on his wife’s last route

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When the day came to leave Ukraine, Sarah and Dan Langenkamp had no time to pack their home. They had to leave their furniture, clothes and children’s toys behind, not knowing if they would see any of it again.

Dan Langenkamp expected they wouldn’t.

But in recent days, as a result of what he describes as the heroic efforts of embassy workers and a Ukrainian housekeeper, boxes filled with those belongings began to appear at the family’s home in Maryland.

For the family, their arrival has brought relief – and pain. Relief because it means they won’t have to live out of suitcases anymore. Pain because those boxes contain so many memories of Sarah Langenkamp, ​​who was killed in August when a flatbed truck driver hit her as she rode her bike from an open house event at her sons’ elementary school.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Dan Langenkamp said of sifting through his wife’s belongings. So many items are calling for her, she says, “They say ‘I need her.’ They say, ‘I need the owner of my things in order for me to be useful, and she is not here.’ “

Those boxes don’t just contain yoga pants; they include she yoga pants. They are not just shoes; they include she shoes.

“Right now, it’s cold and she has this beautiful pair of winter boots that are empty,” he said. “I had to put them in the back of the cupboard.”

On Saturday, drivers passing through Bethesda, Md., might. and DC have seen a sea of ​​cyclists riding through the streets together. They were following Dan Langenkamp along the last route his wife traveled – and then, they rode further than he could. Together, they rode from her children’s elementary school to the crash site on River Road. They then went on, riding until they reached the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There, they called on lawmakers and federal officials to dedicate resources and implement measures that would help make roads across the country safer.

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More than 1,500 people were expected to participate in the “Ride for Your Life” event, promoted by Trek, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, Families for Safe Streets and others. Among those who took part were people who loved Sarah Langenkamp, ​​including her children, and people who had never met her but who recognized in her death that action was needed. She was a US diplomat who fled Ukraine to seek safety, only to die on a road in the Washington area.

A US diplomat left Ukraine, only to die on a road in the Washington area

“Deadly road design is a policy choice,” said Colin Browne, of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. “The tools for making streets safer for everyone – people walking, rolling, cycling, taking the bus, driving – exist, and they’re being used in cities around the world.”

Browne described Saturday’s ride as a way of protesting “a stark, simple reality: hundreds of people die and thousands suffer life-changing injuries on our region’s roads every year, not because we don’t know how to stop it, but also because many of our elected officials and agency leaders are still afraid of making driving and parking a little less convenient.”

In an earlier column, I told you about Sarah Langenkamp. I have also told you in other columns about other pedestrians and cyclists who have been fatally injured on roads in the region: Brett Badin, aged 32, Allison Hart, aged 5, Michael Hawkins Randall, aged 70, Charles Jackson, 64 age, Michael Gordon aged 65 and Shawn O’Donnell aged 40. The last four deaths occurred within the same month.

At 5, she was killed while riding her bike at an intersection. Her legacy should be safer streets.

Behind each of those names is a family who was unexpectedly pushed into mourning and activists who rose to ask, once again, that officials do more to prevent future deaths.

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There have been rides and other gatherings in the region with the aim of raising awareness of the need for road safety improvements. But most of those have demanded that local officials take action. At Saturday’s event, participants called on Congress to fund safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and the Department of Transportation to implement measures to improve truck safety. One measure would require large trucks to add structural guards on the front and undersides to prevent cars, bicycles or pedestrians from sliding underneath.

Langenkamp said his wife could have survived if that measure had been in place. The lorry that hit her was traveling in the same direction as her when it turned right into a car park, according to the police.

“These deaths are very violent,” Langenkamp said. “We shouldn’t hide that. No one should be killed on our streets like this. People say she was ‘hit by a truck’ or ‘hit by a truck.’ No, she was crushed by a lorry, and killed instantly on the side of the road.”

His voice shook as he said that. He knows that is not a gentle image, but what he experienced was not gentle, and he believes that people need to recognize that to fully understand what traffic victims and their family members go through. prove it.

On Saturday, a number of people gave speeches and a few high-ranking officials sent statements that were read aloud. One of those came from US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. In it, he acknowledges the significance of the event which comes the day before the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

“Every year, on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, we mourn those who have lost their lives in traffic accidents,” the statement read. “But mourning is not enough. We must all commit to ending this crisis on our roads and creating a safer transport system so that no more families have to share this grief.”

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After his wife’s death, Langenkamp received notes from senators and other US officials. One letter came from President Biden.

“Sarah will always be remembered for her unwavering commitment to our Nation,” Biden’s letter read. “She was an exceptional diplomat who was dedicated to fulfilling America’s promise to its citizens and the world. We are especially grateful to your family for your and Sarah’s brave service in Ukraine.”

In a letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke of working with Sarah and described her as representing “the best of America, working tirelessly and at considerable personal risk and sacrifice on behalf of our country in pursuit of peace, democracy , prosperity, and adherence to the rule of law.”

Dan Langenkamp worked at the state department with his wife, but has taken a leave of absence since her death. He has spent his days instead, he said, trying to make sure she didn’t die for nothing and learning how to raise two children on his own. Their sons were 8 and 10 and had just enrolled in a new school when the accident happened

“It’s been very difficult,” Langenkamp said. “It was really emotional going to Target the other day to buy some extra winter stuff. We always went to Target together, and suddenly I was an unfortunate father alone doing it. I was trying to pick out pants that fit, and Sarah knew it was cold.”

When he talks about unpacking those boxes, he vacillates between describing it as part of the “unraveling of our lives” and “the warning of our lives.”

“Sometimes,” she said, “I walk back from my sons’ school and I think, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this on my own.’ “

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