She nailed it. She was a naturally good reporter, said Chris Graham, editor of the Augusta Free Press in rural Virginia. He joked with her that she could skip college and go straight to a newsroom.
On Thursday, the story was about Majors. She had been stabbed to death Wednesday evening in what authorities described as an armed robbery in a New York park.
It was a loss that shocked Barnard College, where the 18-year-old had just started school, and it stunned the city beyond and her hometown of Charlottesville.
At a news conference Thursday, Rodney Harrison, chief of detectives in the New York City Police Department, said it appears one to three people were involved in the attack in Morningside Park in Manhattan. During the struggle, one of the people pulled out a knife and stabbed Majors several times, he said. She was able to stagger up to a place where a school security guard saw her and called 911. He said she was taken to a hospital, where she died.
New York police said Thursday evening that no suspects are in custody and that no one was being questioned in connection with the attack.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said it was horrifying to think of a college student being killed in cold blood. Authorities have increased police patrols in the area, he said at the news conference.
“Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life,” Sian Leah Beilock, Barnard’s president, wrote in a message to the campus. “We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community.
“This is an unthinkable tragedy that has shaken us to our core.”
Majors had just released an album with her band, according to a family member who spoke on the condition of anonymity to maintain privacy. He said through tears that Majors sang, played piano, bass and guitar, and was a talented songwriter.
“Tess shone very bright in this world,” he said. “Our hearts will never be the same.
“She was very talented and very loved.”
Majors had already managed to get her band onstage in New York and had performed in Charlottesville venues in high school. “She was pushy in a good way,” Graham said. “When I was that age, I didn’t have that kind of giddy-up.”
Usually, Graham talks with new interns for just a few minutes and signs some school forms, but Majors was inquisitive and bubbly, not afraid to ask good questions. “We talked for three hours,” he said. There she was, “talking to someone 30 years older, a grizzled news guy. To be able to hold her own in conversation like that, she was just wise beyond her years.”
Graham felt certain that Majors would do something creative with her life — whatever she set her mind to.
Her immediate family — including her mother and her father, Inman Majors, a novelist and professor at James Madison University, and a younger brother — lives in Charlottesville.
Majors was an inductee in the Cum Laude Society at St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville and won the school’s Pendleton English Award as an academic honor, a school spokeswoman said.
“Tess was a shining light in our community,” the head of the school, David Lourie, said in a statement, “a good friend, respected classmate, trusted teammate, and creative and passionate musician. Her death is an immeasurable loss, and we mourn alongside the Majors family and all who knew and loved Tess.”
The Columbia Spectator student newspaper reported that throughout the day on Thursday, people left flowers at the Barnard crest at the main gates to campus, along with a note: “For Tessa Majors, whose light will ALWAYS burn bright — Fellow Barnard & Columbia Students.” The schools are affiliated.
In photos posted on social media, the pile of blossoms kept growing: roses, hydrangea, lavender, ferns.
In November, Graham was surprised to get an email from Majors. She was only the second of a dozen students to reach out after the internship ended, and the editor was touched that Graham took the time to ask about a book he was writing and to send an update from New York. She wanted to let him know she had signed up for classes for next semester: She was excited about the journalism program.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.