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Parents of missing Va. student fear foul play

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
/ Source: TODAY contributor

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.”

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.

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.

“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.

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.