A few splashes of color on the chain-link fence caught my eye as I strolled past the recently renovated Matt Kjelland Memorial Courts on Broadway Street.
I noticed a small, white frame hanging next to a collection of locks that listed an Instagram handle below the bold, caps-lock “ALEXANDRIA” and wispy, cursive “Love Locks”.
I happened to find this spot on my way to go take photos for a different story. That’s one thing about journalism that doesn’t always come naturally to me. Even though I like to have my days scheduled in advance, I’m learning that being a reporter often prompts me to pursue my curiosities along the way.
So, I reached out to the couple running the social media account. They have chosen to keep their identities anonymous so that they don’t distract from the purpose of the location: a place where anyone can attach a lock to represent a permanent commitment.
On a trip to France a few years ago, one of the tourist sites the couple visited was the Pont des Arts bridge. The bridge’s popularity came from the hundreds of thousands of locks people placed as a sign of their love for each other. This sentimental spot became a safety hazard because of the excessive strain on the historic structure, so the locks were removed in 2015.
When the couple returned home, they decided to start something similar in Alexandria, as they knew it wouldn’t reach such a high spectacle or heavy weight.
The first lock was hung in honor of their long-lasting marriage about a year prior to their first post on Instagram in August 2018. The two have called Alexandria home for many years, so they said creating this area was a fun addition to the town they love.
They put up the white-framed sign when the Veterans Memorial Park was nearing completion because they anticipated there would be more foot traffic in the area.
Anyone can secure a lock and join the growing collection. Some choose to label them with initials, while others leave no way to identify who placed the lock. Some have tagged the Alexandria Love Locks account in their photos, and others have sent direct messages about their visits. The Instagram account is updated with new photos as more locks appear.
Stumbling upon this display wasn’t on my prioritized list of things to accomplish that day, but I enjoyed finding something new and unexpected nonetheless. And although I didn’t connect a lock of my own, I’m committed to something else.
I don’t want to wander through this town passively. Rather, I’m determined to be inquisitive about my surroundings. Alexandria is filled with unique personalities, interesting features and a rich history. I’m just starting to scratch the surface.