“What people don’t really realize is that this will never go away,” he said. “It is part of the fabric of our life that our lives are. It is difficult for people to comprehend that.”
But Dan and Gil said their community has been amazing. Their neighbors put a meal schedule under their door and fed them for months.
“We had to stop them,” Gil said. “I have to pick up the reins somewhere.”
They have found support through online and social networking as well. Strangers to the family set up the “Help Find Morgan Dana Harrington” Facebook page, which has about 30,000 members, and FindMorgan.com.
People from all over the world, such as Sweden and Finland, have e-mailed Dan, but their words only help so much.
“This is a private journey,” Dan said. “And other people — as much as they help and want to support — it is a journey that really Gil and Alex and I can travel.”
Dan said the sites have become centerpieces to keep Morgan’s story alive, which is why he involves himself with them.
Gil finds the site valuable — it is a place for her to post pictures and blog.
“(Blogging) is almost like pulling splinters out or shards of glass from a wound that you have,” she said. “Pull it out so it doesn’t fester.”
Dan said he doesn’t foresee a time when he would take down FindMorgan.com, which he purchased from its creator. However, he did close the forum piece of the site because it became a place for people to threaten the family.
But Dan doesn’t immerse himself in Morgan’s personal Facebook page, which remains inactive. He said he just doesn’t want to use it.
“That was hers,” Gil said. “You like to know that it still exists, but she doesn’t.”
Dan uses Morgan’s school laptop, which is covered with police evidence tape and is missing one of the keys, as a point of connection.
“These are the games parents of dead children play with themselves to try and make it okay — for at least the next day,” Gil wrote in an e-mail.
The Harringtons honor their daughter, who was a junior education major at Tech, by working on projects Morgan was involved with.
Gil is in Zambia working on the construction of the Morgan Dana Harrington Educational Wing, which is part of Orphan Medical Network International. She, and others with OMNI, will provide free medical care to those in Zambia. Gil will primarily deliver wound care.
She said she hopes the school will be roofed by the time she arrives.
Dan created the Morgan Dana Harrington Memorial Scholarship to remember his daughter, who was a VTC intern.
Morgan’s case also premiered on “Disappeared,” a TV show on Investigation Discovery, Monday, April 18.
The Harringtons said they went through about eight hours of interviewing for the show.
UVa dedicated a plaque to Morgan on Copley Bridge in Charlottesville, the place she was last seen on the night of her disappearance. The Harringtons have visited this place, as well as the farm where her remains were found.
But the Harringtons’ time and effort spent on their projects doesn’t lessen their daughter’s horrendous murder or their pain.
“There are days, and there are days,” Dan said. “As medical people, you are good at compartmentalizing — putting emotions aside to do the job at hand.”
Dan said he and his wife superficially appear to function well. But his emotions don’t necessarily match his outer persona.
“The wave of grief, and feelings of helplessness, and feelings of how do you go forward with such a hole in your life have really come to at least rest on me,” he said.
Gil said it is a rare experience for a couple to have their child killed, and there is no template to follow for the grieving process.
“There is really no norm,” she said. “You have to synthesize it as you go along. You try a lot of things — this feels good, this doesn’t feel good. Let’s move in a different direction.”