KMBC 9 News anchor Donna Pitman made a discovery that brought surprise and emotion, and it took members of one family back to the worst moment of their lives – one they don’t want any other family to experience.
“She would put her little arms around your neck and she would cross her legs and hold on with her whole body,” Whitney Rodden said her daughter Harper was her joy.
That joy is now matched only by the pain of having lost her.
“This is an awful pain that I – our whole family – has to live with,” Rodden said.
Harper was 14 months old when she walked in front of a parked car at her home day care.
The driver didn’t see Harper, and rolled forward just enough to take Harper’s life.
“No one intended for any of that to happen,” Rodden said.
The Roddens are intentional about making sure it doesn’t happen to another family.
We put 18 children in front of a common SUV, then asked the car’s owner to get behind the wheel.
“It’s unbelievable,” Greg Rodden said. “I can’t see any of them.”
Greg Rodden is Harper’s uncle.
“It’s scary to think about. I get in this car three or four times a day,” he said. “You would never think that many kids would be sitting in front and you don’t even know it.”
Greg Rodden does know how tragic it can be.
“It’s tough sitting here,” he said.
Rebecca Fitzpatrick tried the experiment next.
“My heart is pounding,” she said. “It’s pounding. It’s horrifying.”
Fitzpatrick is the assistant director of the day care many of the children in front of the SUV attend.
She said most of the parents of the kids she cares for drive SUVs or vans like this one.
Amber Rollins is the director of the organization Kids and Cars.
“Eighteen kids! And you can’t see a single one of them,” she said.
Rollins said she knows what needs to be added – 360-degree cameras.
Her organization is working to see them added to all vehicles.
Meanwhile the Roddens want people to hug their children a little tighter, missing the big hugs from Harper.
“I could let go and she would be holding on tight,” Whitney Rodden said. “It was crazy that she would just squeeze you so hard. And that’s probably the biggest things we miss.”
It’s something they’ll hold onto, believing they’ll see Harper again.