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


When the day got here to depart Ukraine, Sarah and Dan Langenkamp didn’t have time to pack up their dwelling. They needed to depart behind their furnishings, their garments and their youngsters’s toys, not understanding if they might see any of it once more.

Dan Langenkamp anticipated they wouldn’t.

But in current days, as a end result of what he describes because the heroic efforts of embassy staff and a Ukrainian housekeeper, packing containers stuffed with these belongings started displaying up on the household’s Maryland dwelling.

For the household, their arrival has introduced reduction — and ache. Relief as a result of it means they’ll now not should dwell out of suitcases. Pain as a result of these packing containers include so many reminders of Sarah Langenkamp, who was killed in August when the driving force of a flatbed truck struck her as she rode her bicycle from an open home occasion at her sons’ elementary college.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Dan Langenkamp stated of sifting by his wife’s belongings. So many objects name out for her, he stated, “They say ‘I need her.’ They say, ‘I need the owner of my stuff for me to be useful, and she’s not here.’ ”

Those packing containers don’t simply include yoga pants; they include her yoga pants. They don’t simply include boots; they include her boots.

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

On Saturday, drivers passing by Bethesda, Md. and D.C. may need seen a sea of cyclists driving by the streets collectively. They had been following Dan Langenkamp alongside the last route his spouse traveled — after which, they rode additional than she was ready. Together, they rode from her youngsters’s elementary college to the crash spot on River Road. They then continued on, driving till they reached the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There, they known as on federal lawmakers and officers to dedicate assets and put in place measures that may assist make roads throughout the nation safer.

More than 1,500 individuals had been anticipated to take part within the “Ride for Your Life” occasion, which was promoted by Trek, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Families for Safe Streets and others. Among those that participated had been individuals who liked Sarah Langenkamp, together with her youngsters, and individuals who had by no means met her however acknowledged in her dying a want for motion. She was a U.S. diplomat who fled Ukraine to hunt security, solely to die on a Washington-area street.

A U.S. diplomat left Ukraine, only to die on a Washington-area road

“Deadly road design is a policy choice,” stated Colin Browne, of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “The tools for making streets safer for everyone — people walking, rolling, biking, taking the bus, driving — exist, and they are in use in cities all over the world.”

Browne described Saturday’s trip as a option to protest “a simple, grim reality: hundreds of people die and thousands suffer life-altering injuries on our region’s roads every year, not because we don’t have know how to prevent it, but because too many of our elected officials and agency leaders are still afraid to make driving and parking marginally less convenient.”

In an earlier column, I advised you about Sarah Langenkamp. I’ve additionally advised you in different columns about different pedestrians and cyclists who’ve been fatally injured on roads within the area: 32-year-old Brett Badin, 5-year-old Allison Hart, 70-year-old Michael Hawkins Randall, 64-year-old Charles Jackson, 65-year-old Michael Gordon and 40-year-old Shawn O’Donnell. Those last four deaths occurred throughout the similar month.

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

Behind every of these names is a household that was unexpectedly thrust into mourning and activists who rose as much as ask, once more, for officers to do extra to forestall future deaths.

There have been different rides and gatherings within the area aimed toward bringing consciousness to the necessity for street security enhancements. But most of these have demanded native officers take motion. At Saturday’s occasion, individuals known as on Congress to fund protected biking and pedestrian infrastructure and the Transportation Department to implement measures to enhance truck security. One measure would require massive vans so as to add structural guards on the decrease entrance and sides to forestall vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians from sliding beneath.

Langenkamp stated his spouse might have survived if that measure had been in place. The truck that hit her was touring in the identical route as her when it turned proper into a parking zone, in keeping with police.

“These deaths are really violent,” Langenkamp stated. “We should not cover that up. Nobody should be killed on our streets like this. People say she was ‘struck by a truck’ or ‘hit by a truck.’ No, she was crushed by a truck, and killed instantly on the side of the road.”

His voice shook as he stated that. He is aware of that’s not a mild picture, however what she skilled was not mild, and he believes individuals want to acknowledge that to totally perceive what site visitors victims and their relations expertise.

On Saturday, a number of individuals gave speeches and a few high-ranking officers despatched statements that had been learn aloud. One of these got here from U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. In it, he acknowledge the importance of the occasion coming the day earlier than World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

“Each year, on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, we mourn those who have lost their lives in traffic crashes,” the assertion learn. “But mourning is not enough. We must all dedicate ourselves to ending this crisis on our roadways and creating a safer transportation system so that more families do not have to share this grief.”

After his wife’s dying, Langenkamp obtained notes from senators and different U.S. officers. One letter got here from President Biden.

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

In a letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland advised 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 to pursue peace, democracy, prosperity, and adherence to the rule of law.”

Dan Langenkamp labored on the state division with his spouse, however he has taken a depart since her dying. He has spent his days as a substitute, he stated, making an attempt to ensure she didn’t die for nothing and studying the best way to guardian two youngsters on his personal. Their sons had been 8 and 10 and had simply enrolled in a new college when the crash occurred

“It’s been really hard,” Langenkamp stated. “It was super emotional to go to Target the other day to buy some extra winter stuff. We always went to Target together, and suddenly I was this hapless dad by myself doing it. I was trying to choose pants that fit, and Sarah knew that stuff cold.”

When he talks about unpacking these packing containers, he wavers between describing it as half of the “unraveling of our lives” and the “raveling our lives.”

“Sometimes,” he stated, “I’m walking back from my sons’ school and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this by myself.’ ”

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