Dan, Carilion Clinic’s vice president for academic affairs, is a tall, poised man with short gray hair. Clothed in formal suits and ties, he seems to have it all together. But his eyes, visible through thick-rimmed glasses, and the slight frown glued to his face reveal his sadness.
His wife, Gil, a nurse, is a petite woman that has shoulder-length blond hair, which complements her light blue eyes. Her warm, motherly voice is comforting, but its shakiness is a reminder of her inner pain.
Her purple and green wristband, with Morgan’s name, a heart and “241,” representing “I love you too much, forever, once more” — the family’s slogan — sticks out among the other bracelets jingling on her thin wrist.
Looking at photographs of Morgan, she is no doubt a combination of her mother and father.
Dan and Gil’s home is situated in a small, hilly suburban neighborhood in Roanoke. Its curbside appearance is classic — a light brick exterior, with large windows, a screened-in porch and nicely landscaped front and back yards.
But a green ribbon, symbolizing child protection, tied in a bow around a thick tree trunk in the front yard separates the Harringtons’ home from others.
A rectangular “WANTED” magnet clinging to one of the Harrington’s cars parked in their garage is a chilling clue that their life is far from ordinary.
The magnet, which takes up most of the car door, features the sketch of the man wanted for the 2005 rape and abduction — a black 25- to 35-year-old male with black hair, beard and mustache.
The Harrington home’s decorations evoke family — much of Morgan’s artwork adorns the beige walls, along with photographs and paintings of Dan, Gil, Morgan and Alex, their son who resides in New York.
Even the refrigerator is cluttered with photographs of the Harrington family, including close-ups of Morgan and Alex.
A huge “MISSING” poster with Morgan’s face on it hangs in the foyer, an oddity amid the home’s other ornaments.
It is clear Morgan — and her murder — remains a familiar presence in the home.
On their living room table sits a cigar box; made of smooth, rich wood, it has a yellow ribbon tied to it. Underneath the ribbon knot rests photographs of Morgan as a baby holding the same box.
The box, which was once a seemingly mundane artifact that held the cigars of Gil’s father, Morgan’s grandfather, is now filled with new ashes — Morgan’s.
Gently lifting the box off the glass table, as if she was picking up a newborn, Gil mentioned the heaviness of Morgan’s ashes — their weight symbolizing her daughter’s strength.
“I never thought my out-of-the-box girl would be in the box,” Gil Harrington said.
Morgan’s room, which remains perfectly kempt, is a testament to her out-of-the-box personality: rows of CDs hang on the walls, as do posters of musicians, including Bob Marley and the Beatles.
Her bedframe, which used to be her mother’s, is intricately carved dark wood and covered in neutral bedding, which is seamlessly made. A string of prayer flags hang from one bedpost to another.
Gil said Morgan’s brother, Alex, sometimes sleeps in her bed to be closer to her.
Morgan, who was an artist, exhibited her work in her room. Her mother pointed out one drawing in particular, “Eye See the World,” which depicts an eye with a tiny world in its pupil — a detail Gil said she hadn’t noticed until after Morgan’s murder.
Standing inside her daughter’s closet — where her clothing, accessories and shoes rest, apparently untouched — Gil took a deep breath in.
“Can you still smell her?” she asked herself.
The Harringtons have kept, lost and gained friends in the wake of Morgan’s murder.
“The mix of your friends and acquaintances changes over something like this,” Gil said. “Someone who you think would be in your core team perhaps (isn’t) because they are uncomfortable dealing with your grief and they withdrawal. It has been surprising to see.”
Dan said people have the expectation they need to get on with their life, and life is business as usual.