Bob Harrison looked over the crowd in the park Saturday and saw his daughter’s old friends and classmates.
The faces took him back to skating parties and sleepovers.
“They’ve grown up,” he said.
His daughter didn’t get to. Ann Harrison was abducted and murdered on March 22, 1989. She was 15, a student at Raytown South High School, and she had been waiting for the school bus. Searchers found her books and flute case stacked neatly on the ground.
On Saturday, 25 years to the day since her abduction, about 120 of Ann’s friends, relatives, coaches, even a police sergeant who worked on her case, gathered at Cave Springs Park to remember the girl whose smile, one classmate said, “could light up a ball field.”
“I think a lot about what Ann would have done with her life,” friend Kelly Potter said. “Maybe music, she was so good with the flute. She would have been a great mom. She had such a kind heart, and it’s sad that she never got to share that with the world all these years.”
They told stories of a young girl with pigtails and red cheeks. Lots of girl stuff — putting on too much makeup, giggling late into the night and watching scary movies. And when they got older, it was sports.
Ann never shied away from playing against boys — one remembered her beating him at horse.
“Last time I played a girl,” he said.
Great first baseman, said her softball coach Dan Meng. Ann could really dig out low throws.
“But the thing I remember is that she kept everybody together,” Meng said. “That was the thing about Ann Harrison — and every ball club needs somebody like that.”
But Ann didn’t sign up to play at Raytown South. She told friends she would spend her free time with her boyfriend, who was undergoing cancer treatment.
That boyfriend, David Schesser, spoke at Saturday’s remembrance service. He told about the “awkward middle school moment” of them having to kiss when they played Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher in a play.
He let the laughter die before saying, “I regret that I was too young to know what she did for me.”
Janel Harrison, Ann’s mom, stood in the back and wiped her eyes.
The last speaker, Shannon Hursman, a freelance artist, told of a recent night when he started a commissioned drawing. Then he learned that one of Ann’s killers was to be executed at midnight.
He decided to draw her instead. Over the next four hours, he drew his friend and remembered old stories.
“I laughed out loud,” Hursman said. “And, yeah, I probably teared up a few times.”
He presented his portrait of Ann to her parents Saturday.
At the end, shortly before everyone released balloons into a March wind, Bob Harrison thanked everybody for coming.
“And thanks to the flute people,” he said, referring to KC Flute Choir.
“Brings back memories.”