NORFOLK, Va. (AP) —
Each padlock hanging from the railings of the footbridge over the Hague has its own message.
“You hold the key to my heart.”
“B & C 4 EVER 2013”
“Jenny + Lynn 26 Dec. 13”
The love locks, some silver and gold-tone, others painted bright blues and greens, are meant to symbolize everlasting love that can’t be broken.
No one knows for sure when the first one was attached to the bridge’s metalwork, but they carry dates ranging from the 1990s to this year.
Bridges all over the world boast similar displays. And the reactions have been mixed, from enthusiastic supporters to entrepreneurs cashing in and residents who consider the symbols more vandalism than art.
Norfolk city crews have no plans to remove the tokens of love, city spokeswoman Lori Crouch said. “We love the love in Norfolk,” she said.
But in Paris, the weight of the locks on the Pont des Arts over the Seine has officials worried that sections of guardrail could fall on passing boats. In Prague and Dublin, crews have been using bolt cutters to remove the locks. In Chicago, workers have used torches.
According to The New Yorker, some “amateur locksmiths” have picked locks left on the Brooklyn Bridge in what they say is an attempt to save them from removal and later fasten them to a sculpture.
“You have to be really careful where you put it,” said Vickie Shepherd, who runs Utah-based Lovelocks with her sister, Debbie Peysar. Besides producing custom-made padlocks in the shape of intertwined hearts, Lovelocks also makes small structures to lock them to and keep on private property. That way, no one will try to remove them.
The sisters noticed the phenomenon about four years ago and have since shipped their locks all over the world. They have an office in England and a representative in Australia.
They recently shipped one to Norfolk, but it was not among the more than 100 attached to the bridge recently.
Many believe the love lock tradition began after “Ho Voglia di Te” by Federico Moccia was published in Italy around 2006. The book’s title means “I want you” and includes a scene with two young lovers who attach a lock to a bridge in Rome.
Serbia’s national tourism website, though, claims locks began appearing on the “Bridge of Love” in the center of Vrnjacka Banja after two young lovers met there every night before World War I. One of them, an Army officer, went off to war and never returned. Young women began leaving locks on the span to secure the hearts of their boyfriends and avoid the same fate.
The tradition has evolved to include celebrations for birthdays and memorials for loved ones who have died.
One silver Master Lock on the Norfolk footbridge has black lettering that reads: “John A. Lee, 1957-1992.” Another lock says, “RIP Ana Sanchez.”
A cluster of brightly painted locks snapped together memorialize someone named Maria. One has a metal heart charm attached with the words, “Best Friends.”
A small, golden Master Lock that looks to be professionally engraved carries the message “W E, 3-22-14,” while messages written in marker on others have been erased with time and the weather. At least one couple — Pete & Arica, 2-17-14 — thought to cover theirs with transparent tape.
Many of the locks require a key to be removed. The lovers who left them probably followed tradition and dropped the keys into the water.
But what if love doesn’t last?
Shepherd said the Lovelocks U.K. office once got a call from a man who divorced after a year of marriage and wanted a refund.
“We’re like, ‘I don’t think so,’ “ Shepherd said with a laugh. “You have to buy your own set of mini-bolt cutters.”
Cindy Clayton writes for The Virginian-Pilot