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Video: Missing coed’s parents: our ‘worst nightmare’

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    >>> back at 8:09. and now to the search for 20-year-old virginia tech student morgan harrington . ten days ago, she was attending a metallica concert. no one has seen her since. we're going to talk with her parents in a moment. but first, nbc's norah o'donnell is in charlottesville , virginia, with the very latest. norah , good morning to you.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith. this is where morgan disappeared ten days ago. the fbi has now joined in this massive search. local police have scanned hours and hours of video from local businesses, atms, these arena cameras. they have found nothing. all they have is her purse and cell phone , discovered in this parking lot. she simply vanished.

    >> there has been no contact with morgan or from morgan .

    >> reporter: police and family are still searching for clues after the mysterious disappearance of 20-year-old virginia tech student morgan harrington .

    >> we do not know whether she is alive or has met some kind of ill fate.

    >> reporter: morgan vanished more than a week ago after she and her friends went to a metallica concert in charlottesville , virginia. before metallica even took the stage, morgan told her friends she was going to the bathroom . later, she called her friends from outside the concert venue to say she had left the arena and couldn't get back in because she didn't have her ticket stub, and that's where the mystery deepens.

    >> we have a purse and we have a cell phone . we have a missing girl.

    >> reporter: police are doing a criminal investigation of her disappearance and have checked morgan 's cell phone records. they say her last call was indeed to her friends at the concert at approximately 8:40 p.m . her parents notified police the very next day, saying their daughter didn't come home as expected. her father gave an emotional plea.

    >> i'd like to say, if morgan is out there and hears us, please come home . and if someone has morgan , please let her come home safely.

    >> reporter: now in its tenth day, the massive search continues. on facebook, people have posted pictures and videos, which police say they are monitoring closely. metallica posted a plea of their own on their website saying "one of our fans is missing," and is pledging $50,000 towards a now $150,000 reward. on thursday, morgan 's friends gathered for an emotional vigil as her mother jill recalled the last time she had spoken to her daughter.

    >> as she left, morgan 's last words to me were "two, four, one, mama, i love you too much forever one more time."

    >> reporter: police say they put together a timeline of morgan . her last call at 8:40 p.m . some sightings in this arena up until 9:30 p.m . and then the trail goes cold. meredith?

    >> norah , thank you very much. morgan 's parents, dan and jill harrington , are with us now. good morning to both of you and thank you for joining us. obviously, this is a very difficult time for your family.

    >> good morning.

    >> thank you for having us.

    >> thank you. you know, jill , you have said that morgan was so looking forward to this concert by metallica , that she had been anticipating it for weeks. so, that raises this question why she would leave the venue before they actually took to the stage. she told her friends she was going to the bathroom . there are bathrooms, though, inside the arena. have they shed any light --

    >> right.

    >> -- remember frienher friends, on why she might have left?

    >> you know, kids are impulsive. i don't know if she met up with another friend or so-called friend. i am reassured that she was not lost in the big crowd inside, that we do have contact with her from outside, and she gave the message to her friends that she was okay and could get a ride, and that's our last communication.

    >> yeah. dan , jill raises a good point. she did say to her friends that she was going to be able to get a ride home. does that indicate to you or do you suspect that she had met up with somebody that she might have known, even a very distant acquaintance?

    >> well, you know, she doesn't really know many people in charlottesville , but maybe she saw someone at the concert, you know, that she identified with and thought that maybe she could catch a ride home with them.

    >> you know, these kids of this age think everybody's their friend.

    >> why did you, dan , realize, and when did you, jill , realize that she was indeed missing?

    >> sunday around 12:30ish. dan was expecting her to come on through the door because she had a math test that she needed his help with. i am unable to deliver help in that area, so that's a papa job, and she wasn't coming, and so we thought, well, let's call her friends and see what's up. and that's when we realized that they didn't know where she was either.

    >> yeah, and i'm sure that her friends are beside themselves wondering what if we had only said to her, you know, we'll go out there and try to get you back in the arena that night. maybe things would have been so different. is that something, dan , that has crossed your mind?

    >> well, it has. we're both medical people, and any time there's a bad outcome in a hospital, for example, you know, there's not just one thing that happens. and we think that if, you know, if in the many steps of this event, if one thing had been different, we could have had a different outcome.

    >> but i think it's important that we don't fall into, you know, survivor's guilt. we need to be moving forward and direct all of our energies at this point into finding morgan while people's memories are still fresh.

    >> are you worried that she has become the victim of foul play?

    >> very worried. we're very worried. nothing else makes sense, you know. morgan , we can track her until 9:30 and then she vanished from sight, which is scary to us as parents, and also, you know, halloween is in a couple of days. there's -- somebody is or was in the charlottesville area who takes young women . we have to keep working on this and find our daughter and find this person and make all our community safer.

    >> and how are you holding onto hope at this point, dan ?

    >> you know, we've had such incredible support from friends, you know, praying and being there with us emotionally and physically. you know, you have to hold out hope, you know, that morgan will come back to us. you know, it's a rough -- this is probably a parent's worst nightmare. you know, clearly, no one ever expects to be in this situation, and we have to hold out hope that we're going to see our daughter again.

    >> and we will hold out hope as well for your daughter and for your family.

    >> thank you so much.

    >> dan and jill harrington , thank you so much for joining us.

    >> thank you.

    >> appreciate it.

    >> and if you have any information about morgan 's disappearance, you're asked to call the virginia state police tip line at 434-352-3467 or the jefferson area crimestoppers at 434-977-4000. we'll be right back. * pop-tarts?, please!

By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/27/2009 9:43:50 AM ET 2009-10-27T13:43:50

The parents of a 20-year-old college student who disappeared at a Metallica concert aren’t kidding themselves: Even as they cling to hope that she’ll return to them unharmed, they admit that the most likely explanation of why she’s missing involves foul play.

“Nothing else makes sense,” Morgan Harrington’s mother, Gil Harrington, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday from her Virginia home.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed young woman went to the concert on Saturday, Oct. 17. At 8:40, she called her friends in the arena at the University of Virginia to say she’d gone to the bathroom and ended up outside the building without her ticket stub. She said she couldn’t get back in but told them not to worry; she would find a ride home on her own.

“Then she vanishes from sight, which is scary to us as parents,” Gil Harrington said. “Also, Halloween is in a couple of days. Somebody is or was in the Charlottesville area who takes young women. We have to keep working on this and find our daughter and find this person and make our community safer.”

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No survivor’s guilt
Vieira asked Gil and her husband, Dan Harrington, if they wonder what they or Morgan’s friends could have done differently that might have kept their daughter safe. Dan Harrington replied that both he and his wife work in the medical industry, where they can’t afford to think that way.

“Any time there’s a bad outcome in a hospital, there’s not just one thing that happens, that in the many steps of an event, if one thing had been different, we could have had a different outcome,” he said.

His wife agreed that such thinking is counterproductive.

“I think it’s important that we don’t fall into survivor’s guilt,” Gil Harrington said. “We need to be moving forward and direct all of our energies at this point into finding Morgan while people’s memories are still fresh.”

Dutiful daughter
Young adults sometimes disappear intentionally, but the Harringtons were uncommonly close to their daughter. A student at Virginia Tech, about 35 miles from her parents, she talked to her father every day and trusted him with her computer passwords and the key to her apartment. She also spoke with her mother daily and frequently returned home to visit.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, Morgan Harrington spent the day at home planning with her mother what she was going to wear to the Metallica concert she planned to attend at the University of Virginia.

Such days were the norm for the family, Gil (pronounced “Jill”) Harrington told Robach in a previous TODAY interview on Saturday.

“It was a regular day for us: got up, made tea, had coffee, chatted some, showed the outfits, showed me how she was going to do her makeup,” the mother recalled.

TODAY
Morgan Harrington phoned her friends Oct. 17 from outside John Paul Jones Arena to say she could not get back into the Metallica concert and would find her own way home. She has not been heard from since.
Morgan went with friends to the concert. Sometime between 8:30 and 9 p.m., she called her friends to say she had gone to the restroom and ended up outside John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virgina campus in Charlottesville. She told them she wasn’t allowed back in and would find another way home.

The next day, her phone and purse were found in a parking lot near the arena. Morgan, who never went anywhere without her cell phone, hasn’t been seen since.

“We have a purse and we have a cell phone. We have a missing girl,” Lt. Joe Rader of the Virginia State Police told reporters last week. “We do not know whether she is alive or has met some ill fate.”

‘Worst nightmare’
The parents don’t know why Morgan left the building or decided to find her own way home, saying that wasn’t the way she normally operated. But they also said that kids aren’t always ruled by logic.

Metallica has put Morgan Harrington’s information on their Web site under the headline “One of Our Fans Is Missing.”

“Kids are impulsive,” Gil Harrington told Vieira. “I don’t know if she met up with another friend or so-called friend. I am reassured that she was not lost in a big crowd inside, that we do have contact with her from outside. She gave the message to her friends that she was OK and could get a ride, and that’s our last communication ... Kids at this age believe that everybody is their friend.”

The couple said they have gotten strength from the support and prayers of friends. And they maintain hope.

“You have to hold out hope that Morgan will come back to us,” Dan Harrington told Vieira. “This is probably a parent’s worse nightmare. No one ever expects to be in this situation. We have to hold out hope that we’re going to see our daughter again.

TODAY
Her parents, Gil and Dan Harrington, described Morgan as a “wonderful person.”
“She’s really very a sweet person, kind of an innocent individual who probably is quite trusting,” Dan Harrington said. “She’s quite artistic, loves to read, and, really, over the last six months, Gil and Morgan and I had just a phenomenal relationship. She goes to school only 35 miles from here. We’ve been able to have daily contact with her. She’s a wonderful person.”

Boosted by a $50,000 pledge from Metallica, there is a $150,000 reward for information that helps find Morgan Harrington. Police ask anyone with information to call 434-352-3467.

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