​Community members, students gather Friday to remember Morgan Harrington, other missing persons

Supporters decorate Copeley Bridge on fifth anniversary of dissapearance

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In remembrance of the fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, Harrington’s parents hosted a memorial service Friday on Copeley Road Bridge, where Harrington was last seen before her body was found in January 2010 at a farm 10 miles away from Grounds.

Community and University members, media and family of Harrington and other girls who have gone missing in the area gathered to pay their respects to Harrington and other young women reported missing in the area, including second-year College student Hannah Graham, who went missing Sept. 13.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Morgan’s mother Gil Harrington said. “It also takes a community, a village to mourn a child. … This kind of anguish affects an entire community.”

Morgan’s father, Dan Harrington, spoke to remind those in attendance that perpetrators could be anywhere, and it’s a community’s responsibility to remain aware of their surroundings.

Gil Harrington tied a fifth black ribbon around a streetlight on the bridge, where a ribbon has been tied every year since Morgan disappeared. An orange ribbon was tied in memory of Graham; a pink for Alexis Murphy, who went missing in 2013; and a rainbow ribbon, in memory of all of the other women who have been reported missing in the area.

The Albemarle High School chorus performed the song “Give Us Hope.” Ribbons and posters of the missing girls adorned the bridge, as well as chalk on the sidewalks in memory of those missing.

Heather Kesler, a second-year Nursing student, has worked with other students to establish a chapter of “Help Save the Next Girl” at the University. The non-profit organization was founded by the Harringtons to educate young women and protect against gender-based violence.

“We really focus on missing persons,” Kesler said, “[Also] education on how to prevent future missing persons cases, so we’re thinking about wanting to do an awareness week and partnering with organizations that are already at U.Va. to get education pamphlets and stuff out there.”

Kesler said the organization is awaiting full approval from Student Council, but has already appointed officers and will host their first information session in a few weeks.

Gil Harrington read a poem dedicated to the memory of her daughter, and expressed her gratitude to the community for their ongoing support.

“Charlottesville, you have responded magnificently,” she said. “We are most grateful for the outpouring of compassion and caring.”

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