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

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When the day came to leave the Ukraine, Sarah and Dan Langenkamp didn’t have time to pack up their house. They had to leave behind their furniture, their clothes and their children’s toys, not knowing if they would ever see any of it again.

Dan Langenkamp hoped 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 full of those belongings have begun turning up at the family’s home in Maryland.

For the family, his arrival has brought relief and pain. Relief because it means they no longer have to live with suitcases. Pain because those boxes contain so many memories of Sarah Langenkamp, ​​who died in August when a flatbed truck driver struck her while she was riding her bike at an open house at her children’s elementary school.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Dan Langenkamp said of going through his wife’s belongings. So many articles call her, he said, “They say ‘I need her.’ They say: ‘I need the owner of my things to be useful to me, and she is not here.’ ”

Those boxes don’t just contain yoga pants; They contain its yoga pants They don’t just contain boots; They contain its boots.

“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 closet.”

On Saturday, drivers passing through Bethesda, Md. and DC could have seen a sea of ​​cyclists riding the streets together. They were following Dan Langenkamp the last route his wife rode, and then they rode farther than she could. Together, they traveled from their children’s elementary school to the crash site on River Road. They then continued riding until they reached the Capitol’s reflecting pool. There, they called on lawmakers and federal officials to dedicate resources and implement measures that help make highways across the country safer.

More than 1,500 people were expected to participate in the “Ride for Your Life” event, which was promoted by Trek, the Washington Area Bicycle Association, Families for Safe Streets and others. Those who participated included people who loved Sarah Langenkamp, ​​including her children, and people who had never met her but recognized in her death the need to act. She was an American diplomat who fled the Ukraine seeking safety, only to die on a Washington-area highway.

An American diplomat left Ukraine, only to die on a Washington-area highway

“Deadly road design is a political choice,” said Colin Browne of the Washington Area Bicycle Association. “Tools to make streets safer for everyone – people who walk, wheel, bike, take the bus, drive – exist and are used in cities around the world.”

Browne described Saturday’s trip as a way to protest “a simple and grim reality: Hundreds of people are killed and thousands sustain life-changing injuries on the roads of our region every year, not because we don’t know how to prevent it, but because we don’t know how to prevent it.” also many of our elected officials and agency leaders are still afraid to make driving and parking a little less convenient.”

In a previous column, I told you about Sarah Langenkamp. I’ve also told you in other columns about other pedestrians and bicyclists who have been fatally injured on the region’s highways: Brett Badin, 32, Allison Hart, 5, Michael Hawkins Randall, 70, Charles Jackson, 64, Michael Gordon, 65, and Shawn O’Donnell, 40. Those last four deaths occurred in the same month.

At 5, she was killed riding her bicycle in a crosswalk. Her legacy should be safer streets.

Behind every one of those names is a family unexpectedly in mourning and activists who have risen up to demand, again, that officials do more to prevent future deaths.

There have been other rides and meetings in the region aimed at raising awareness of the need to improve road safety. But most of them have demanded that local officials take action. At Saturday’s event, participants called on Congress to fund safe infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians and for the Department of Transportation to implement measures to improve truck safety. One measure would require large trucks to add structural guards to the lower front and sides to prevent cars, bicycles or pedestrians from sliding under it.

Langenkamp said his wife could have survived if that measure had been taken. The truck that struck her was traveling in the same direction as her when she made a right turn into a parking lot, according to police.

“These deaths are really violent,” Langenkamp said. “We must not cover that up. 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 truck and died instantly on the side of the road.”

His voice trembled when he said that. He knows that he is not a kind image, but what she experienced was not kind, and he believes that people need to acknowledge that to fully understand what trafficking victims and their families experience.

On Saturday, several people gave speeches and some senior officials sent statements that were read aloud. One of them came from the US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. In it, he recognized the importance of the event that is celebrated the day before the World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Victims.

“Every year, on World Road Traffic Victims Remembrance Day, we mourn those who have lost their lives in traffic accidents,” the statement read. “But mourning is not enough. We must all dedicate ourselves to ending this crisis on our roads and creating a safer transportation system so that more families do not have to share this pain.”

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

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

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

Dan Langenkamp worked in the State Department with his wife, but has been on leave since her death. Instead, he has spent his days, he said, trying to make sure she didn’t die for nothing and learning how to raise two children on her own. His children were 8 and 10 years old and had just enrolled in a new school when the accident occurred.

“It’s been very difficult,” Langenkamp said. “It was super emotional going to Target the other day to get some extra stuff for the winter. We would always go to Target together, and suddenly I was an unfortunate parent doing it alone. I was trying to pick out pants that fit me, and Sarah knew that very well.”

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

“Sometimes,” he said, “I walk home from my children’s school and think, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this by myself.’ ”

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