CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the case of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, there are many questions, few answers and little resolution.
On a bright fall afternoon in Charlottesville, there was solace.
Standing on the bridge where their daughter disappeared 12 months earlier, Morgan’s parents Dan and Gil, flanked by her brother Alex, thanked the University of Virginia community and various law enforcement agencies for their efforts in their daughter’s murder.
Sunday’s gathering dedicated a permanent plaque for Morgan Harrington. During the months of her disappearance, Copeley Road bridge was the site of many vigils and commemorations. The university’s Board of Visitors approved the plaque in September.
Speaking at the dedication, Dan Harrington noted the night of his daughter’s disappearance, there were mistakes from many, including the John Paul Jones Arena staff, Morgan’s friends and Morgan herself.
“Morgan had no luck that night,” Dan Harrington said. “If only one person had intervened, my daughter would still be alive and we wouldn't be here a year later with all the pain and sorrow we have.”
Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old education major, went missing one year ago when she left her friends during a Metallica concert at the Charlottesville arena. Last seen alive at the Copeley Road bridge a few hundred yards away from the arena, Harrington’s remains were found in late January at a farm about 11 miles away from the bridge.
Gil Harrington stressed the need “to catch the monster who savagely murdered our daughter from the streets of this community.”
She also focused on her positive shift in feelings toward the Copeley Road bridge area.
“This place is a threshold to move into a new culture of respect and transparency that will protect our young people and will promote community safety here and in other areas,” she said.
Arthur Garson, UVa’s executive vice president and provost, closed the ceremony, asking gatherers to “remember Morgan, and move forward.”
Sunday’s dedication drew around 100 family friends, police officials and school representatives at the bridge, which was closed for the ceremony.
Several in attendance were seen wearing purple shirts with the family’s dotted “2-4-1” logo, standing for “I love you too much, forever, once more.” Once a private Harrington family saying, the phrase became a hopeful one adopted by many during the months of searching for Morgan Harrington.
Ed Spencer, Tech’s vice president for student affairs, made the drive from Blacksburg to Charlottesville to represent Tech at the ceremony.
“There’s a lesson from this about watching for and caring for others,” Spencer said. “No one deserves to die a violent death.”
Kenny Jarels, a family friend of the Harringtons and an electrical and computer engineering employee at Tech, noted the need for continued vigilance in looking for Morgan Harrington’s killer.