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

Explanation

When the day came to leave Ukraine, Sarah and Dan Langenkamp had no time to pack their house. They were forced to leave their furniture, clothes and children’s toys, not knowing if they would see anything again.

Dan Langenkamp expected they wouldn’t.

But in recent days, as a result of the heroic efforts of the embassy staff and a Ukrainian housewife, according to him, boxes full of those things were found in the family’s home in Maryland.

For the family, their arrival brought both relief and pain. A relief because it means they no longer have to live out of a suitcase. Painful because those boxes contain many reminders of Sarah Langenkamp, ​​who was hit by a truck driver in August while riding her bike from an open house at her sons’ elementary school.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Dan Langenkamp said of going through his wife’s belongings. So many things are calling him, he said: “They say, ‘I need.’

These boxes don’t just have yoga pants; include she yoga pants They include more than just boots; include she boots

“It’s cold now and he’s got a nice pair of winter boots that are just empty,” she said. “I had to put them in the back of the closet.”

On Saturday, motorists passing through Bethesda, MD and DC may have seen a sea of ​​bicyclists riding the streets together. They drove Dan Langenkamp on his wife’s last route, and then they rode farther than he could afford. Together, they walked from her children’s elementary school to the scene of the accident on River Road. They then continued their ride until they reached the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There, they urged lawmakers and federal officials to commit resources and take action to help make roads safer across the country.

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More than 1,500 people were expected to participate in the Ride for Your Life event, sponsored by Trek, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, Families for Safe Streets and others. Among those who attended were people who loved Sarah Langenkamp, ​​including her children, and people who had never met her but recognized the need for action in her death. He was an American diplomat who fled Ukraine to seek safety and died alone on his way to Washington.

An American diplomat left Ukraine and died alone on his way to Washington

“Deadline design is a policy choice,” said Colin Brown of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. “The tools to make streets safer for everyone — people who walk, bike, bike, ride the bus, drive — exist, and they’re being used in cities all over the world.”

Brown described Saturday’s ride as a way to protest the “simple and terrible reality” that hundreds of people die and thousands sustain life-changing injuries on our region’s roads every year, not because we don’t know how to prevent it, but because reason too. Too many of our elected officials and agency leaders are still afraid to make driving and parking a little more convenient.”

In a previous column, I told you about Sarah Langenkamp. I’ve also featured in other columns about other pedestrians and bicyclists fatally injured on area roads: Brett Badin, 32, Allison Hart, 5, Michael Hawkins Randall, 70, Charles Jackson, 64, Michael Gordon, 65, and Sean O’Donnell, 40. The last four deaths occurred in one month.

At the age of 5, he was killed while riding a bicycle in a crosswalk. Her legacy should be safer streets.

Behind each of these names is a family who has been unexpectedly bereaved, and activists who are standing up again and asking officials to do more to prevent future deaths.

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Other walks and rallies were also held in the region to raise awareness of the need to improve road safety. But most of them have asked the local authorities to take action. At Saturday’s event, participants called on Congress to fund safer bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and for the Department of Transportation to implement measures to improve vehicle safety. One measure requires large trucks to add structural guards on the front bottom and sides to prevent cars, bicycles or pedestrians from sliding underneath.

Langenkamp said his wife could have survived had this been done. According to police, the truck that hit him was traveling in the same direction when it turned into a parking lot.

“These deaths are really violent,” Langenkamp said. “We should not hide it. No one should be killed like this on our streets. People say he was “run over by a truck” or “run over by a truck.” “No, he was hit by a truck and killed instantly on the side of the road.”

When he said these words, his voice trembled. She knows it’s not a soft picture, but what she went through wasn’t soft, and she believes people need to understand that to fully understand what traffic victims and their family members go through. .

Several people spoke on Saturday, and several high-ranking officials sent statements that were read aloud. One of them came from US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttige. In it, he recognized the importance of the event a day before the World Day of Remembrance of Traffic Victims.

“Every year on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, we mourn those who lost their lives in road accidents,” the statement read. “But mourning is not enough. We must all work together to end this crisis on our highways and create a safer transportation system so that more families do not have to share this grief. “

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

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

In a letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about working with Sarah, describing her as America’s best representative, “the best American who has worked tirelessly and at great personal risk on behalf of our country for peace, democracy, prosperity and the rule of law.” makes and sacrifices”. rule of law”.

Dan Langenkamp worked with his wife at the State Department, but took a leave of absence after her death. Instead, she spent her days, she said, trying to make sure she didn’t die in vain and learning how to raise two children on her own. Their sons were 8 and 10 years old and had just enrolled in a new school when the accident happened.

“It was really hard,” Langenkamp said. “It was so emotional going to Target the other day to buy extra winter stuff. We always went to Target together, and suddenly I was this miserable dad doing it myself. I was trying to pick out the right pants and Sarah was cool with those things.”

When he talks about the opening of these boxes, he vacillates between describing it as part of the “opening of our lives” and “our lives.”

“Sometimes,” he said, “I come home from my sons’ school and think, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this myself.’ »

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