For the family, their arrival brought relief and pain. Relief because it means that they will no longer have to live without suitcases. Pain because these boxes contain so many reminders of Sarah Langenkamp, who was killed in August when the driver of a flatbed truck hit her while she was riding her bike during an open house at the primary school of his sons.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Dan Langenkamp said as he rummaged through his wife’s belongings. So many objects call out to her, he says, “They say ‘I need her.’ They say, “I need the owner of my stuff to help me, and she’s not here.”
These boxes don’t just contain yoga pants; they contain his Yoga pants. They don’t just contain boots; they contain his boots.
“Right now it’s cold and she has this nice pair of winter boots that are just empty,” he said. “I had to put them in the back of the closet.”
On Saturday, drivers passing through Bethesda, Md. and DC may have seen a sea of cyclists riding through the streets together. They were following Dan Langenkamp along the last road his wife rode – and then they drove further than she could. Together they drove from her children’s primary school to the crash site on River Road. They then continued, riding until they reached the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There, they called on lawmakers and federal officials to dedicate resources and put in place measures that would help make roads across the country safer.
More than 1,500 people were expected to take part in the “Ride for Your Life” event, promoted by Trek, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Families for Safe Streets and others. Among those who participated were people who loved Sarah Langenkamp, including her children, and people who had never met her but recognized in her death a need for action. She was an American diplomat who fled Ukraine to seek safety, only to die on a Washington-area road.
“Designing deadly roads is a political choice,” said Colin Browne of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “The tools to make the streets safer for everyone – people who walk, ride, cycle, ride the bus, drive – exist and are being used in cities around the world.”
Browne described Saturday’s race as a way to protest “a simple, grim reality: 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 too many of our elected officials and agency leaders are still afraid of making driving and parking slightly less convenient.
In a previous column, I told you about Sarah Langenkamp. I have also spoken to you in other columns of other pedestrians and cyclists who have been fatally injured on the roads of the region: 32 years Brett Badin5 years Allison Hart, Michael Hawkins Randall, 70, Charles Jackson, 64, Michael Gordon, 65 and Shawn O’Donnell, 40. Those last four deaths happened in the same month.
Behind each of these names is a family that has unexpectedly been plunged into mourning and activists who have stood up to demand, once again, that the authorities do more to prevent future deaths.
There have been other rides and rallies in the area aimed at raising awareness of the need to improve road safety. But most of them asked the local authorities to act. At Saturday’s event, attendees called on Congress to fund safe biking and walking infrastructure and the Department of Transportation to implement measures to improve truck safety. One measure would require large trucks to add structural guards to the front and lower sides to prevent cars, bikes or pedestrians from sliding underneath.
Langenkamp said his wife could have survived if this measure had been in place. The truck that hit her was traveling in the same direction as her when it turned right into a parking lot, police said.
“These deaths are really 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 run over by a truck and killed instantly on the side of the road.
His voice trembled as he said this. He knows it’s not a sweet picture, but what she went through wasn’t sweet, and he thinks people need to recognize that to fully understand what traffic victims and members of their lives go through. family.
On Saturday, several people gave speeches and a few senior officials sent in statements that were read aloud. One came from US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. In it, he acknowledges the significance of the upcoming event on the eve of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
“Each year on World Road Traffic Victims Remembrance Day, we mourn those who have lost their lives in road traffic crashes,” 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 in this grief.
After his wife’s death, Langenkamp received memos from senators and other U.S. officials. A letter came from President Biden.
“Sarah will always be remembered for her unwavering commitment to our nation,” Biden’s letter read. “She was an outstanding diplomat who dedicated herself 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 of working with Sarah and described her as representing “America’s best, working tirelessly and at considerable personal risk and sacrifice on behalf of our country to seek peace, democracy, prosperity and adherence to the rule of law.”
Dan Langenkamp worked at the State Department with his wife, but he has taken a leave of absence since her death. Instead, he spent his days, he said, trying to make sure she didn’t die for nothing and learning 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 was really tough,” Langenkamp said. “It was super emotional going to Target the other day to buy some extra winter stuff. We always went to Target together, and all of a sudden I was this unhappy dad on my own. I was trying to choose pants that fit me, and Sarah knew that stuff.
When he talks about unpacking these boxes, he vacillates between describing it as part of “untangling our lives” and “untangling our lives.”
“Sometimes,” he says, “I come home from my sons’ school and I think, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this on my own.’ ”