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While searching for daughter, Va. girl's parents work to help others

Three months and three days.

That’s how long it has been since Gil and Dan Harrington's life changed. On Oct. 17, their daughter Morgan, 20, went missing outside a Metallica Concert in Charlottesville.

My colleague Anna Uhls and I spoke with the Roanoke couple today when they visited The Post as part of a two-day trip to the District. They had meetings lined up on Capitol Hill with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Tom Perriello; they had already seen Sen. Jim Webb.

It was all part of their campaign to keep the search for Morgan going. "It is a hellish path to be on," Dan Harrington said.

Morgan, a Virginia Tech junior, was excited the afternoon she headed to the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena with friends. At one point, however, the willowy blonde ended up outside the arena and couldn’t get back in. She talked to a friend by cellphone, saying she’d get home on her own.

She never returned.

Gil and Dan and their son, Alex, have been looking and praying ever since. The couple held hands nearly the whole time we talked, comforting each other. Gil explained that each day they face each other and wonder what more they can do to bring Morgan home.

“This has been our life,” she said. “We don’t want to take time to have fun. Time before Morgan was taken and time after is profoundly different.”

Dan, an associate dean at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, has gone back to work. But he said he is often overwhelmed with thoughts of his daughter.

The couple said they are urging lawmakers to make sure the Virginia State Police have the resources they need to keep the investigation alive. But they are also in town to advocate for other families with missing loved ones: The Harringtons are asking lawmakers to reauthorize Kristen’s Act, which creates a national database to search for missing adults.

The 2002 law was named for Kristen Modafferi, an 18-year-old Charlotte, N.C., woman who vanished in June 1997. U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick (N.C.) explained in a press release that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children couldn’t help the search because Modafferi was an adult.

The House voted to reauthorize the law in February, and it’s pending before the Senate.

For the Harringtons, the search for Morgan continues. They’ve set up a web page to update their progress. A group of women who call themselves Morgan’s Warriors check out possible sightings. The non-profit CUE Center for Missing Persons in Wilmington, N.C., is planning to re-scour the area where Morgan was last spotted.

There is a $150,000 reward for her safe return or information that leads to those responsible. Dan and Gil are convinced someone has information that can help the police.

“This is a very big secret to keep for this long,” Gil said. “People have girlfriends, people have work associates. People talk.”

“If you know someone who has had a behavior change in the past three months, call the tip line,” Dan urged. It may not mean that person did anything wrong, but police can check it out, he said.

Family images of Morgan Harrington. (Anna Uhls/Post)

Morgan, an education major who said she wanted to be a teacher, was last seen on Copley Bridge near the arena. The Harringtons go there often to visit a shrine to their daughter. People leave cards and messages for Morgan. The Harringtons visited around Christmas, leaving a wreath atop a snow bank.

“Every day we look at each other and say ‘Can we do this anymore?’” Gil said. “We say we can’t quit on Morgan.’”

Virginia State Police ask that anyone with information about Morgan Harrington call the tip line at 434-352-3467 or e-mail them.

-- Maria Glod

By Maria Glod  |  January 21, 2010; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Maria Glod , Unsolved , Updates , Virginia  
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Stop the killing: Close Virginia Tech

Posted by: member5 | January 21, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The young woman who disappeared is not a "girl" but a young woman because she's 20. It's has been months since the young woman has been seen which is why murder seems like the most probable answer for the continuing disappearence of her.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | January 21, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

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