TODAY   |  October 26, 2009

Missing coed’s parents: our ‘worst nightmare’

Oct. 27: As the FBI continues to look for missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, TODAY’s Meredith Vieira talks to her parents, Dan and Gil Harrington, about their desperate search.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> 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!