1,600 strong: High turnout in Charlottesville for Morgan Harrington search
They came from Richmond, from Falls Church, from Buena Vista, and beyond. They came alone, in pairs, and trios of friends. There was even a busload from the Roanoke medical center that employs the father of Morgan Dana Harrington, the young woman who disappeared October 17 during the Metallica concert in Charlottesville.
"We've had people from North Carolina, West Virginia, and even some from Pennsylvania," said Janice Liggett, the volunteer coordinator for the Laura Recovery Center, the Texas-based non-profit which has been coordinating a civilian search effort which has tallied, Liggett, said, about 1,600 volunteers in three days.
"I'm hoping to find some answers for them and do what I can to help," said one of them, Roanoke nurse Linda Matney, who climbed aboard the bus chartered by Carilion Clinic shortly before the vehicle began moving north at 7:15am Sunday.
Her search team, led by two rescue squad veterans from Stuarts Draft, was tasked with checking out the train tracks near DŒrty Nelly's restaurant. Another team heading out the same time was on its way to the UVA cemetery on Alderman Road. In all, 171 search teams went out over the three-day period.
"That people would drive for two two hours to be here is what you hold onto," said a grateful mother, Gil Harrington, watching the buzz of activity with her son and husband. "We feel like we have extended family now."
Mrs. Harrington said that as difficult as the three weeks without their daughter have been, the report of the November 5 massacre in Fort Hood, Texas, gave her something for which to be grateful.
"Those families did not have the chance to have a search," said Harrington. "We do. We still have the chance to find the needle in the haystack."
In teams of nine or ten, the search teams were getting instructions to scour the ground for clues such as clothing or jewelry or–- in a worst-case scenario–- a body.
Outside the Virginia Department of Forestry building, serving as command center for the search, Charlottesville businessperson Joan Fenton was carrying a loaded Panera Bread bag and enthusing about the donations from area businesses.
"It's been amazing," says Fenton. "Nobody says no."
Joel Briggs strolled by toting several cases of Red Bull energy drink to fuel the troops. "I bought a whole bunch of them," he confessed, "and then my wife quit drinking them."
A few feet away, a woman who recently celebrated her 70th birthday, decided her talents were better suited for "KP" than scouring hills and ravines. "I feel it's my civic duty," said Alice Gibson, who recently moved here from Annapolis. "This could happen to any one of us."
As the Harringtons paused to speak with a reporter, Mrs. Harrington revealed that two days earlier she and her husband dialed Morgan Harringtons's cell phone just to hear their daughter's voice. The mother integrated her daughter's "I'll get right back to you" message into a poem she read for some of the searchers.
"I don't want her voice erased from the world," Mrs. Harrington explained.
On Monday morning, November 9, State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller issued the following statement, "Search parties did recover various articles of discarded clothing and objects. Unfortunately, none of those items has proven relevant to the case."
–-last updated 10:30am, Monday, November 9