The Duncan Banner

September 8, 2013

Kolobaric’s visit memorable

Ed Darling
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Mauro Kolobaric, Consul General to the Embassy of Australia in Washington, made an impression on Duncan during his short stay in our city last week.

Here to share in the aftermath of the shooting that took the life of 22-year-old Christopher Lane, a collegiate baseball player from Australia visiting his girlfriend, Sarah Harper, he touched many bases and hearts.

He toured the city, learning first-hand the whys we lovingly call it home. He engaged in an emotional conversation with the Harper family. He enjoyed a reception in his honor with board members of the Rotary Club at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. He had a relaxing, private dinner. He stayed overnight at The Lindley House. He spoke to students at Duncan High. He offered sympathies and understanding. He visited with the media. He outlined strengths shared by our countries at a Rotary luncheon. And he delivered a moving, personal message to Duncan from Peter Lane, father of Christopher.

It was, he said, aside from the reason that brought him here, a wonderful experience.

Duncan, you see, made an impression on him as well.

He said that in the tight confines of a vehicle that escorted him from place to place. He said it in the privacy of casual conversations or when a microphone was near. He said it to clusters of listeners charmed by his accent. He said it to note-taking reporters. He said it, essentially, to anyone who asked or even dared to wonder. .

And he repeated it Friday from the comfort of his Massachusetts Avenue office.

“I felt very, very much at home there,” Kolobaric said, reflecting on his visit. “I have not seen the ambassador (the Hon. Ken Beazley) yet, but we have emailed and my theme continues with everyone I see. My visit was wonderful and the people of Duncan are quite lovely.

“It’s a long way from Washington and even farther from Australia, but I felt a closeness there. It was if I was at traveling home in Australia. I can certainly understand why Christopher had the feelings he had for Duncan and for the Harper family. I could not have felt more welcome. I came back knowing I had spent less than 24 hours there, but feeling I had known many of you for years.

“I am so glad Duncan, through Rotary, reached out to us and I am grateful to have been the one able to visit, to represent our country and to visit with you all.”

The time, he said, was full of moments he will long remember.

Visiting with the Harpers was special, personal and meaningful, allowing him a unique glimpse at Christopher, Sarah and family members who mean much and have been so supportive.

Spending time with the high school students was an unexpected treat, magnified in that all high school students were part of the morning assembly. He said they seemed engaged and inquisitive with a genuine interest in his remarks. That many lingered to shake hands, ask questions and share their future plans, pleased him.

Learning the Labor Day Memorial Run attracted so many participants and generated so much money for scholarship purposes, showed the “outpouring of support” in a “strong community.” A jogger himself, had he known, he would have arrived earlier to be part of the event. Perhaps, he said, he’ll be able to return.

Hearing “Oklahoma!” and national anthems of Australia and the United States sung in his honor at the Rotary luncheon moved him deeply, adding a personal touch to the feeling of “warmth, generosity and spirit” he had already experienced.

And delivering directly the remarkable words of a strong message sent by Peter Lane, father of Christopher, to the community was difficult, but touching and even inspiring.

Kolobaric’s theme, repeated often, was simple and pure.

“We understand there is a sense of guilt because it (the shooting) happened there, but there is no reason for Duncan, as a community, to feel badly,” he said. “It was a random act that could have happened anywhere.

“We saw and can see the community spirit and support. No one blames Duncan for any of this.”

His visit embraced the clarity sought by Rotarians anxious to apply the global mission of clubs in both countries – Duncan and Melbourne were, ironically, both chartered in April 1921.

Provide service to others, the mission reads. Promote integrity. Advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through its fellowship of business, professional and community leaders.

Mauro Kolobaric’s time in Duncan did just that. 580-255-5354, Ext. 130