COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A powerful and impactful message now sits on the bridge on Rich Street in Columbus. Locks symbolizing hope, showing pain, and hopefully some closure for the families who have lost their loved ones to gun violence.

Rhonda Clayborn holds a picture of her late son while placing a lock on the Rich Street Bridge in Columbus, Ohio (Photo by Kenya Ramirez)

Malissa Thomas St.Clair is the mastermind behind this new effort. St. Clair said the locks were originally supposed to be placed at the Purple People Bridge in Cincinnati and Kentucky–but fate took matters into its own hands.

“It was almost Destiny,” said St. Clair.

She said she and a group of women decided if they couldn’t place them there, it meant they had to put them in Columbus. She’s calling them ‘Locks of Love,’ and said they serve to signify the permanent love for their children.

Pictured left to right, Malissa Thomas St. Clair, Brenda Johnson, Rhonda Clayborn, Meshella Blair, pose with photos of their children on Rich Street Bridge over the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio(Photo by Kenya Ramirez)

There are currently about 10 locks on the bridge, and St. Clair hopes people who walk or drive by the spot will start talking.

“It’s kind of an impactful image of enough is enough,” she said.

As violence in the city continues to rise, St. Clair hopes when people see how many lives have been lost, it will help one more person learn how to talk instead of turning to violence. She also wants to give mothers a chance to grieve differently, as passing by a cemetery hasn’t been the easiest for many of them.

“If you look behind me, you see the beautiful backdrop of what represents Columbus. Our children were stolen from us in this city. Many of us as mothers have a bad taste about our city, so we’re going to revamp that.” she said.

One mother, Brenda Johnson, said adding this lock was like getting her power back. For months, she’s been grieving in silence.

Brenda Johnson holds a photo of her son while she places a lock on the bridge in her son’s memory. (Photo by Kenya Ramirez)

“Our sons and daughters are not just a number,” Johnson said. “My son is not 131 of 2020. My son is James Johnson. He meant something to us.”

Meshella Blair said it’s nice to be able to walk down the bridge and not turn the other way, as she has painful memories of the bridge.

“This is where he would want to be,” she said.

It also brings back many smiles and good memories for Rhonda Clayborn as her son loved music. She keeps his memory alive through that.

“I cross this bridge a lot going to different concerts,” Clayborn said.

St. Clair said for these women, every memory is different, but Columbus has instilled a lot of pain. They hope this can help with that–and permanently lock their love for them.

In a few weeks, a new group of mothers will be adding 25 new locks on the bridge. They are hoping to eventually rename the bridge as ‘The Bridge of a Mother’s Love.” They are in the early planning stages of addressing it with city officials.

Fathers will also be able to place locks on the bridge as well in the future, St. Clair said.