Duran Workman was happy to be home in Charleston this past weekend. He was being inducted into the George Washington High School Sports Hall of Fame, an honor he was proud to receive, but he was even more excited to see old friends, coaches and haunts.
He stopped by Stonewall Jackson Middle School to relive some of his favorite childhood sports memories, running around the field there. He took in a Capital High practice at University of Charleston Stadium. He caught up with former coaches like GW’s Steve Edwards Jr.
It was a quick moment of fun before he hopped back on a plane and headed home — to Houston, where the work of rebuilding has just begun. It’s a project that encompasses the entire city, including his parents’ home in the Kingwood neighborhood in the northeast part of the city.
It might have seemed overly cautious at the start, how Workman helped his father Doak and mother Pam haul furniture and keepsakes to the home’s second floor ahead of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall.
“Houston is very unforgiving when it comes to a lot of rain,” Workman said.
The house was built a foot above the record flood level for the city — 66 feet. The family figured the water from the San Jacinto River might come close, but not enter the house. Still, better to be safe than sorry.
No one could have imagined the historic limits Harvey would pass in pulverizing Houston and the surrounding areas.
Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 storm, bringing with it torrential rains. Some spots in Houston saw 30 inches of rain, some as many as 51 inches. As those rains kept coming, the Workmans started to worry that flood waters might make it to the house. They prepared the best they could, stacking sandbags around the house.
“At the end of the day, that saved us about 15 minutes,” Workman said.
They went to sleep one night, thinking the water would crest a foot away from the house. They woke up hours later with their fears come true.
“My dad woke me up about 3 a.m. and there was about 2 feet of water in the house,” Workman said. “Ultimately, when the boat came to rescue the family and two dogs, we had about 3 feet of water in the home. A couple houses down, I actually saw a Coast Guard helicopter drop a basket to pull somebody up.
“The streets,” Workman continued, “the water was moving almost like a river.”
Some folks from Florida in a boat came for the Workmans — Duran, his parents, brother Dexx, sister Megan and their pets. When the waters receded, they returned and began the process of salvaging the house. The Workmans spent five days around the Labor Day holiday tearing out drywall and cabinets from the first floor.
Workman wants to stress that, relatively, he and his family were lucky. He lives in an apartment building on the west side of the city that escaped damage. The rebuilding process at his parents’ home will take time, but the furniture and everything with sentimental value was spared. Many of his neighbors were not as fortunate.
The death toll around the state had reached 70. The Texas Department of Safety said 185,000 homes around the state were damaged and 9,000 were destroyed. The Workmans’ keepsakes were safe, but Workman saw one neighbor laying family photos on her lawn trying to dry them out after the floods had saturated them.
“Some homes deeper in Kingwood had water up to their second floor,” Workman said. “Some people in less fortunate areas were just completely at a loss. It’s been an extremely sad situation.”
And it makes him want to help others in Houston when he returns home. Once he has helped take care of his family, Workman will go out with his team at Robert Half Technology — where he’s director of the Technology Permanent Placement division — and help others in the city.
“Seeing people coming together and not worrying about people’s background or skin color … everyone from all different backgrounds have been helping each other and are there for each other and are loving on each other. That’s been an amazing sight. My family has received a lot of help from people we didn’t even know.”
That spirit of togetherness is something he experienced during his playing career. A second-team All-State defensive back at GW, he started his college career at Army, then at Saddleback College in California, then started 10 out of 12 games at the University of Nevada. You can’t compare the two situations, Workman said, but there is a commonality.
“What sports teaches you to do … I’ve been very blessed to be around a variety of people,” Workman said. “I’ve learned to appreciate everybody and their own uniqueness. The awesome thing about sports is that … when you’re struggling and you struggle with that brother next to you, you’re able to push aside all those things that don’t matter.”
Workman was able to enjoy a weekend of fond memories in Charleston. When he returns to Houston, he’ll set out to help the city — those he knows and those he may not — recover so that memories of Harvey won’t consume residents’ minds.