Mark Harmon admitted that New Year's Day call to wife Kim was one of the hardest of his life.
He and his father had taken Mark's three kids and a cousin ice fishing out on Fish Hook Lake. Their 4-year-old had fallen through the ice in the middle of the lake.
"I heard her screaming," said Julia Harmon, 7, who looked to see sister Alessia flailing and up to her armpits in icy water.
Indeed, Alessia was screaming her head off.
Julia and 9-year-old brother Parker sprang into action. Parker grabbed Alessia's arm and hauled her out of the lake in a sopping wet, heavy snowsuit.
Julia meanwhile sprinted to the family ice house 20 yards away screaming for help.
Inside, Mark and Tom Harmon couldn't hear her over the sound of the auger. She kept screaming, "Dad come out! It's an emergency!" and pounding on the door. As she retells the story, she gestures toward an imaginary ice hole, her face no doubt mimicking the fear she experienced on the ice.
The men responded.
"And then I had to take a bath," Alessia ends the story abruptly, editing out much of the drama.
What the Harmon family didn't know at the time was that earlier that day or the previous day, someone had cut a large spearing hole in the ice, about 3-feet by 4-feet, Mark estimated. The anglers had marked it with a stick, which attracted the curious foursome, who ventured out to see it while the men started the auger.
The ice had already begun freezing over. Alessia, in the lead, slid her toe out on the patch to test the ice after her cousin had plunged the stick into the surface, breaking the ice.
The next thing she remembered, she was screaming for help as she fell in.
"I was trying to pull myself up," Alessia explained.
"She had all her winter gear except for a scarf," Julia said.
Parker estimates she was in the water "maybe 10 seconds."
Julia corrects him.
"It was 11 seconds," she pronounces with authority.
"I'm sure it felt like an eternity watching it," Mark said, expertly mediating a dispute about to erupt.
The men and kids rushed Alessia home while Mark made that dreaded call to his wife.
But he was curiously calm. He said he's usually controlled in a crisis and blows later when he realizes the peril he just escaped from.
Kim has come to grips with the tale, which could have turned out much worse.
"They were very resourceful," she said of her children.
Parker, a Cub Scout, had just been through a den meeting in which they learned safety out on the ice, for helping people who'd been in accidents and basic first aid.
The den leader? Good old Dad.
"We learned different emergency responses," Mark said. "But the text always says grab a ladder," he laughed. He still second-guesses that day as to "what could I have done different to prevent this?"
But he decided to stop beating himself up over it.
"Accidents happen," he said.
Parker will likely get a scout medal of honor. Julia, a Brownie Scout, may get a lifesaving award. She's told all her friends, who questioned whether the event was real.
She assured them it was.
Parker is more reserved. When he and Mark discussed his role, he said, "Dad, I just did what anyone would have done" under similar circumstances.
"You taught me that," he told his dad.
Julia plays down her role, too.
"I never even thought that I would fall in," she recollected. "I was screaming."
As the tale spills out over little tongues, the rescue details get a bit garbled. Julia grabbed Alessia, Parker grabbed Julia and they all pulled together. The end result was the same.
When Kim suggests her kids behaved as superheroes, Alessia immediately seizes on the notion of running around in a Superman cape. Her siblings look embarrassed.
"I was just worried," Parker admitted.
And Julia isn't focused on anything except having her little sister back.
"It's not about the award," Julia explains in a worldly way. "It's that you got out."
Kim has recovered from that phone call. She said she's been conflicted between three thoughts since then: "that it was a close call, how grateful I am and a sense of pride" for all her kids.
The kids have "new rules" out on the ice, which was a foot thick that day. No more roaming about the frozen neighborhood while the adults are busy.
Alessia knows the new rules, but is not to be deterred.
"Do I get a cape?" she demands.