Sad days: Harrington family coping, waiting

cover-findmorgan-parentsHarrington's dad holds Kirby while mom gives the family's "I love you 2 much" signal Saturday. PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

It's been hell on earth for the parents of missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Dana Harrington.

"God, this has been a long week," says her father, Daniel "Dan" Harrington, who last saw his daughter around noon on Saturday, October 17, just hours before her disappearance from a concert in Charlottesville. "This," says mother Gilbert "Gil" Harrington, "has been physically, emotionally, quite a hit."

During a recent interview at their home in Roanoke, the couple speak fondly of the 20-year-old daughter they eagerly hope to see again; yet throughout an hour-long conversation, they occasionally refer to her, seven days gone at that point, in the past tense.

"You have a choice," says Gil, pronounced JILL, "you can dissolve in the corner or become hard and bitter– or forge a way to find something positive because that's what Morgan is, or was."

"She always called me Papa," says Dan. "She said she needed to get back Sunday because she had a math test."

The Harringtons' is a three-story brick house in a hilly neighborhood that, although tucked between Interstate 81 and the airport, remains exceedingly quiet on Saturday, October 24.

The day began at 5am with the parents arising for live crews from both NBC's Today show and CBS's Early Show. The couple express gratitude for the outpouring of support and for the outpouring of media, both of which they view as crucial to solving the case.

Dan Harrington's mobile phone rings. It's a reporter from FoxNews. Upstairs, the Harringtons' other child, 22-year-old Alex, who graduated last spring from UVA and now lives and works in New York, is asleep in his only sibling's bed. He's trying– his mother explains– to feel his sister's presence.

"He's been drifting around her room, looking in drawers," explains his mother. "There is an empty Morgan-shaped space right now."

Exactly seven days earlier, Morgan was in this house, having spent Friday night with the family and then the morning of Saturday, October 17, when she tried on a few potential outfits for the Metallica concert, the event from which she disappeared.

"You want your children to be loving and open," says Gil, wrestling with her own second-guessing as theories of stranger abduction at a heavy metal show abound. "We have tried to layer, layer love on Morgan. Maybe we've done her a disservice by not creating enough watchfulness."

Her father says Morgan drove herself and her longtime friend and Blacksburg roommate, Amy Melvin, to Harrisonburg to meet up with another longtime friend, Sarah Snead, who attends James Madison University, as well as a friend's boyfriend.

At 2pm, Morgan called her dad and confirmed that they'd safely arrived in Harrisonburg. The plan was still on for father and daughter on Sunday to balance her checkbook, which she'd overdrawn buying groceries.

Before Metallica took the stage, Morgan reportedly called Snead to say that although she had gotten shut out of the concert by leaving the venue, she would find a ride back to Harrisonburg, where she'd left her car.

"This is the perplexing part to us," says her father. "Why didn't she call her brother? Why didn't she call me?"

Online chatter percolates about whether she was a runaway, but the father points out that runaways don't often leave purse, phone– not to mention friends and family– in the lurch.

"We've gotten past the she-ran-away-with-a-boy idea," says Dan. "But I wish this had been the case."

More online chatter stems from the tight-lipped nature of investigations, which has left the public with the seemingly false explanation of a young woman's quest for a restroom leading to an exit from a building equipped with at least a dozen bathrooms–- and a no-reentry policy.

"We know that Morgan got out of the building," says her father, "and then it's like she fell off the earth."

On the front door of the Harrington home, there are seven white dots, familiar now to those following the case on as the family's fond mantra to each other: "I love you 2 much, 4ever, and 1nce more."

"This is the girl," says her father, "who last week alone popped in on us and spent the night Wednesday and then popped up again Friday and spent the night."

For now, there are precious few "moments of normal" for the the family, says her mother. "You string them together toward a new life," she says, gesturing toward a table. "We were like this table with four legs, but we're contemplating being a tripod. Tripods are shaky, but they can hold things."

Read more on: Morgan Harrington


sad, sad, sad.

the fact the police dont have anything 10 days after leads me to believe that you wont crack this case from mixed up stories from her friends. if it was a guy or a party, these girls would of cracked by now. this appears something much more sinister.

Our prayers are with your family.

I would be so angry at the arena for letting a single girl not back in and alone out there! Those policies have to be changed! They are to blame! I think of you daughter everyday esp having one of my own!

Our prayers are with you... We have 5 children and I can't imagine what you are going through....

My heart has been heavy ever since my mother called last week to tell me of Morgan's disappearance. Since then I have checked regularly to read updates online. Having a 20-year old daughter myself, I can only begin to imagine how you must feel. God knows exactly where Morgan is, and I pray that He, in His great mercy and love, will restore her to you. I leave you with a promise from God for those who trust in his Sovereignty: Call upon me in your day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me. (Psalm 50:15).

I pray for your Daughter. We pray for your Family. We do not know your Family but we have six children. I pray everyday that she is back home safe.God Bless you all.

My heart breaks for your family. I will be praying for you to gain strength from our loving Father above to get through this very difficult time. She is a beautiful woman inside and out and I hope she will return home to mend the hole in your hearts. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness...For I, Jehovah your God, am grasping your right hand, the One saying to you, ââ?¬Ë?Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.” (Isaiah 41:10,13)

My girls and I pray for Morgans safe return. This case has hit particularly close to home for me as my oldest daughter attended Northside with Morgan and is the same age. My heart aches for the Harrington family.

I also taught and coached Morgan (track) in middle school. Beautiful young girl--inside and out. I pray every day for her safe return.

Dear Harrington's,

My prayers are with you and your family. I really hope your daughter is found safe. My own daughter disappeared for 6 months and came home safe. She also left her purse and cell phone behind and we thought she had been kidnapped. My wish for you is that you have a happy ending like mine turned out to be.

Love and prayers from a parent who was in your shoes.

I think and pray for your family every day. We live in Harrisonburg and I have a Morgan myself only 16. The dissapearance of your Morgan has really left a hole in my heart for you and your entire family. I pray for Morgan's safe return and closure to this nightmare you are living.

I'm praying for Morgan.

Dear family of Morgan, I feel nothing I can say will ease your pain and fears, but please know that you are not alone in your time of sorrow. Hearts are breaking everywhere with the news of her sudden disappearance, and as we watch the news, we can easily catch a glimpse of her spirit in her beautiful photos. What an angel. I pray that your precious family member will be reunited with you soon and the mystery of her absence will be resolved.

The Friends who chose not to phone her parents to say she was not riding back with them and waited until they were phoned by her worried parents..owe it to Morgan to come forward with what they know. Who was she going to meet? hy did you not go out with her when she called to say she was unable to get back in. Friends would've also missed he concert if they were real firends who were concerned about her well being.. Thats what.. thru good times and and can always count on me. Your studies should be put on hold until you have been out there pounding the pavements fidning her. You can always make up the classes but her life cannot be brought back if something has happened. Would you want them to just forget about you if it were you missing and not heard from. Do unto Others as you would have them do unto you. To the Harrington Family.. I hope with every ounce of energy in me.. Morgan is returned home to you asap.. unharmed. It is obvious you have done an outstanding job raising your children and trusted and respected their decisions as hard as that is as a parent sometimes. I hope the friends who were with her last get busy and find her or get the answers you long for. Morgan and you deserve that.

Who are you "dana h"? we just need to know if it's morgan trying to reach out to her family or not.

Dan and Jill, I still consider you guys to be great friends, even from far Idaho, and my family and I pray for Morgan and your family every day.

I have known Dr Harrington- a compassionate, warm and caring Dr- for many years now and know the smile that comes across his face when you ask about his 2 kids. A junior in college does not typically need to 'run away'- they already are pretty much on their own and can do as they please. This family was a close, loving family.
Everyone needs to search the world for her. If traveling in airports, bus stations, using rental car agencies, etc., please make copies of the flier found on and put them up everywhere, in every state. Who would she have known in Charlottsville that she would have felt she could call to get a ride back to Harrisonburg? Did she know any of her brother's old friends that may still be at UVA or live there? Leave no leaf unturned and no one unquestioned.
I pray for you Dr. Harrington and your family. I have felt nauseated since I heard about Morgan- that you would ever have to go through this. I pray that you will soon get an answer to what happened and that she will be safe and back with you very soon.
We never think it will happen to us, but this is getting too close when it happens to someone you know. We all must be vigilant in watching out for others- keeping our eyes and ears open for anything that just doesn't seem right. It could be your child next...

Dear Harrington's: Our thoughts and prayers are with you in the search for your beautiful daughter. We hope that you will be reunited and have her with you again. We are especially touched by the circumstances of her situation and wish every hope and blessing on you. Best wishes to you.

Dear Harrington family, My heart breaks for you during this terrible time. I am praying that Morgan will be located and reunited with you very soon. My daughter, Amy, was a camper at Easter Seal Camp for many years and I understand that she knew Gil. Certainly we would have met you as well. We hope, we pray and we care.

Thinking of you anf your family. Praying for a safe return. I taught and coached Morgan in middle school. Such a sweet girl!!

I just can help by the pray.. May morgan still ok and will comeback soon..

Thought and prayers are with your family. May God bring Morgan home safe and sound!

I prayer that your daughter will return to you soon. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

We just can't express how bad we feel about what is happening to you. We can't imagine how you are holding up at all. We hope and pray for something good to happen.

I cannot imagine what you are going through. I trust that she will return safe and sound.

Don't give up hope! "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen". Our family has not stopped praying for Morgan's safe return. Both of my sons are friends of Morgan's. Ricky dated Sarah all through school and Jeff and Morgan were close in high school. Please remember that "Love never fails".

If I could give a miracle, I would give it to you.
If my hope were tangiable, I would send it to you.
If faith could be measured, I would give you my share.
I am praying for the return of Morgan.

everyone wants to know who dana h is...lots of speculation here. 2-4-1 Morgan

dear gil dan and brother,

dear dan gil and brother,