By Cat Schneiderman
Hundreds gathered early Sunday evening at a candlelight vigil in Morningside Park in honor of slain Barnard student Tessa Majors.
Majors, an 18-year-old first-year student, was walking down the stairs at 116th Street into the park last Wednesday evening when she became the target of a robbery that escalated into a fatal stabbing.
Sunday’s vigil was slated to take place at the bottom of this same set of stairs, but due to the ongoing police investigation that has roped off the area, mourners were forced to hold the memorial further into the park at the bottom of a different stairwell.
“We live right across the street, so we came to support the community,” said Douglas Thomas, who attended the vigil with his wife and son. “We heard she was only eighteen.”
“You can’t undo it. You can’t bring her back,” said Randy Klein, a social media manager who resides in the neighborhood. “These kids [that are accused of murder], their lives are over.”
The vigil began as the sun was setting over the park, and a string of elected officials passed a microphone to speak, tasked with honoring Majors’ memory.
Among them was City Council Member Mark Levine, the representative for this district, who spoke about the tragedy. “The loss of even one precious life is unacceptable,” he said, while urging the community to ignore the inflamed racial rhetoric that Majors’ death has aroused. “We don’t want divisive voices to exploit this tragedy.”
Other officials including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, and City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez were also there to speak about Majors’ death.
As the remarks continued, the orators moved away from discussing Majors, and instead spoke about the community, angering some of those in attendance.
“If it’s true that it was a 13-year-old that did it,” said Council Member Rodriguez, “we failed the children of Harlem. We failed the children of Washington Heights.”
“–A girl got killed!” interrupted one mourner.
“–This isn’t a political event!” shouted others.
After the closing benediction, the crowd raised their candles and cell phones to illuminate the dimly lit staircase.
“Say her name!” a voice called, and the crowd responded in unison, chanting, “Tess! Tess! Tess!”