The slogan that represents love in the family of missing Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington brought a larger family together Thursday, as her community came together in hopes of a safe return.
“I love you too much, forever, once more.”
The “2-4-1” slogan, a central theme for the evening, was represented by a scattered pattern of dots, with horizontal columns of two, four and one dots, representing an oft-used family message.
It was drawn in chalk in the parking lot, painted on the rear windows of parked cars, and colored on purple t-shirts worn by Harrington’s friends and family.
Harrington’s mother said that the dots had been on her daughter’s lunchbox in kindergarten and her backpack in middle school. It is a slogan that originated in Gil Harrington’s family.
The message permeated the scene as Harrington’s closest friends and family welcomed the support of a community in a vigil at Northside High School in Roanoke.
During the ceremony, Harrington’s family welcomed the “outpouring of support” that has come from not just their close friends, but from all those who have heard about their daughter’s story.
“We will survive this obscene place in time,” said mother Gil Harrington as she addressed the crowd, “by taking the shining gossamer threads of love from you and plaiting them together into a rope of support.”
Family pastor Diane Scribner Clevenger opened the ceremony in prayer for Harrington’s safe return. “This may not be a time we can wrap our minds around,” she said, “but this is a time we can wrap our hearts around.”
While all in attendance had unique stories to tell, one theme was clear: Harrington’s closest circle of friends firmly believes she is alive and will be safely returned.
Dan Harrington, Morgan’s father, said that his daughter was “not a person who was trying to run away from her family, friends, and life at Virginia Tech.”
“I think Morgan was taken,” he said, “and if someone out there has her, please, let her go.”
During his speech at the vigil, father Dan Harrington said his co-workers at Roanoke’s Carilion Clinic donated over $100,000 for a reward in his missing daughter’s case.
Virginia State Police said they could not yet confirm any details about the reward Thursday because of legal proceedings.
After Harrington’s parents pleaded for their daughter’s safe return, her friends shared anecdotes of their positive memories, dating from recent years back to kindergarten. It seemed difficult for the girls to speak, but the addresses ended encouragingly as the speakers huddled together for a group hug.
Chelsea Helm, whose speech opened the vigil, has known Harrington since the two went to Northside Middle School together. Helm and Harrington’s group of friends had unofficially gone by the nickname “The Nine.”
She said the vigil was a source of comfort for Harrington’s closest friends and family.
“It’s really important to have someone to lean on in troubling times, and all of us going through the same thing, it’s wonderful to get together and know that everyone understands exactly what everyone else is going through,” Helm said.
Helm, a junior building construction major at Tech, said she and Harrington had seen more of each other during the past semester.
“We’d been riding the bus from our (apartment) complex, and seeing a lot more of each other than we had the past couple of years,” Helm said.
Helm recalled Morgan talking about the Metallica concert the week before.
“She had been excited about it for a while,” Helm said, adding that Harrington was excited to see friends that she had not seen in a while.
Helm said that following Harrington’s disappearance, she felt the need to rally support for Morgan and the Harrington family.
“A lot of people were calling me if they could do anything or what was going on,” Helm said. “I thought it would be a good idea to have a gathering of support for Morgan and her family.”