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Community Search for Hannah Graham Organized

Posted: Updated: Sep 19, 2014 11:13 PM

Thousands of volunteers from the Charlottesville community came out Friday night to get ready for this weekend's search for Hannah Graham.

They all met at John Paul Jones Arena, where search team leaders and police briefed them on what they'll be doing. The search, organized by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, is scheduled to begin Saturday morning at the arena with the first crews starting at 8 a.m. Crews say they had so many volunteers come out that they split them into groups with different start times.

"We had over 1,500 people already preregistered. We also have a lot of people coming in…registering on-site, so I anticipate that we'll probably have close to 2,000 people,” said coordinator Mark Eggeman.

Volunteers hope they can offer his experience to aid in the search. "I thought I could do well to help the community and the school. I've got a little experience and training in search and rescue and I thought I could do my part to help everybody out and help Hannah and her family,” said Jack Brown, a first-year student at UVA.

Friday night's crowd heard from the families of Morgan Harrington and Alexis Murphy, who both went missing as well. One volunteer says she knew a girl who went missing from her high school four years ago – Samantha Clarke.

"I went to high school with Samantha Clarke...it kind of touches close to home when you're from Charlottesville and all these girls go missing, and you're a young female that lives in town. It's a really scary thing," said volunteer Julie Mullins.

Crews briefed the crowd on where they would be going Saturday. Eggeman says they'll be starting at the university.

"One of the areas that was not searched as well as we would like it to be would be the grounds around the university campus itself and heading out more west and north,” Eggeman said.

Eggeman says volunteers are looking for anything from clothing or a phone to Graham herself. Volunteers say they just want to help bring this family's torture to an end.

"Whatever we can do to help bring some closure to this family or find this young lady would be amazing,” Mullins said.

Volunteers were told, if they find anything that looks like evidence, not to pick it up, but rather take a picture of it or simply alert search coordinators. Police also warned never to enter anyone's private property without permission.

Even those who aren't participating in the search are showing their support for Graham's family. Thousands attended a candlelight vigil for Graham at UVA Thursday night, and her peers are remaining hopeful, despite extreme anxiety.

“The mood is a very tense hopefulness. We're all really trying to find Hannah and search for Hannah, but we're also starting to miss Hannah very deeply,” said Abraham Axler, president of the class of 2017. “As a community we are all really aching for Hannah's return.”

Gil Harrington, Morgan Harrington's mother, came to Charlottesville when she heard about Graham's disappearance to offer support to those affected. “I think people have already begun one of the best things they can do, which is pray for them, keep them in their thoughts, keep the information circulating,” she said.

Harrington urged the community to come forward with any information, no matter how small the detail may seem. To report a tip regarding this investigation to Charlottesville police, call 434-295-3851.

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