Luckie Street Fire
Davis Brothers Restaurant
Atlanta, GA

Donna H. Bowman, Author/Photographer  

The 40th anniversary ceremony in 2011 prompted me to begin writing the Luckie Street book as a Father's Day present for my husband Danny, one of the Luckie Street Firefighters. As I began gathering information from other firemen and their families it became evident this wasn't just Danny's story; this horrific event deeply affected everyone involved. The scope and depth of the book quickly expanded.

As a newspaper journalist/columnist, and having researched, written, and published several nonfiction children's books (visit my web site), I had an idea of what to expect, but the journey took me by surprise. The project turned into a year of incredible, unforeseen discoveries, tearful accounts, heart warming remembrances...and cherished new friendships. The gift I intended to give, I also ended up receiving several times over. 

For everyone who shared personal stories, professional expertise, documents, photos, time and effort, thank you. It's been an honor and a privilege to create this commemorative book for all of our families. 
I hope you find Tragedy on Luckie Street to be a meaningful tribute to honor those who fought the fire; those who gave their all.   

           For my husband, Happy Father's Day...at last (2012). I love you.

God bless,
                                                                    Donna H. Bowman

Pictured above:
Donna H. Bowman with husband Forsyth County Fire Chief Danny D. Bowman
 
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Questions & Answers

        Donna H. Bowman, Author                 PDF
       
Danny D. Bowman, Survivor                PDF



More information is availabe on the Media page.




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Q & A with Donna H. Bowman 
Author, Tragedy on Luckie Street

1. How did you learn about this story?

In 1971, when this tragedy occurred, I was living in Los Angeles, California—where I was born. Although this terrible fire made national news, somehow I missed it.

My family moved to Georgia in 1975. Later in life, while attending my cousin’s wedding, I met a kind, stately, gentleman named Danny Bowman. My cousin was a firefighter; Danny had been his chief. Danny kept me spellbound with his stories (he still does)! We married and eventually he told me about his experience in the Luckie Street fire. Ten years later we attended the fire’s 40th anniversary ceremony; creation of the book began right there on Luckie Street where the fire began.
 
2. Why did you write this book?

The 40th anniversary ceremony in 2011 prompted me to begin writing the Luckie Street book as a Father's Day present for my husband Danny. As I began gathering information from other firemen and their families it became evident this wasn't just Danny's story; this horrific event deeply affected everyone involved. The scope and depth of the book quickly expanded.
 
3. How has this fire’s story been kept such a secret for so long?

When the fire occurred, it did make national news. However events tend to fade from memories unless you have a personal connection. Books help us keep history alive.  

Another factor, involves the humble nature of firefighters. Firefighters are called upon during some of the most dramatic moments in our lives. Sights, smells, and sounds, burn images into firefighter’s memories that none of us should have to endure. There are numerous ways to handle trauma; when the Luckie Street Fire occurred, the common practice was for firefighters simply not to discuss the event. 

Today, much more is known about post traumatic stress—new techniques have been developed to help individuals cope. Many fire departments have chaplains and trained officers on call who debrief firefighters after traumatic events. 

Although what firefighters are asked to do every day is heroic, the firefighting culture embraces those who are humble. Even today, if a firefighter is photographed during an event, and that image lands in a newspaper, he or she may end up buying dinner for everyone in his fire station. Humbleness is embraced; boastfulness is seldom tolerated. 

4. What about these stories inspires you?

These men put themselves in harms way trying to protect the property—the
livelihood—of a stranger, and were suddenly blown into a whole new chapter in their own lives. Through their heart wrenching stories of chaos, fear, and tragedy, emerged determination, brotherhood, heroics, and faith. These admirable people inspire me.   

5. If you weren’t married to a survivor would you have written this book?

If I hadn’t married a survivor I’m not sure this fire would have been brought to my attention. These men were very guarded with their stories. I felt honored that they trusted me enough to finally open up.

But, if given the opportunity, yes! I would certainly have wanted to write this with or without a personal connection. I am an author. When I discover something worthy, something that others can grow or heal from, something that—in my opinion—deserves recognition, it’s a blessing to be able to do just that.     

6. What do you hope the book will accomplish?

Keeping history and its lessons alive for future generations. I hope this tribute properly honors those who fought this historical fire and those who were killed in the line of duty. I hope this book will help answer questions that have been left in limbo for four decades.  

Also, with an average of 100 firefighters being killed in the line of duty per year in America*, there are many families experiencing great losses. Perhaps they can find comfort and courage in the words of those who have traveled this difficult journey. 

 

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Q & A with Danny D. Bowman 
Survivor, Luckie Street Fire

1. What is it like to be a survivor of the Luckie Street Fire?

Grateful. Just a matter of feet away, four fellow firefighters are plunged into an inescapable inferno. Although I have no recollection of being blown across Luckie Street, I do recall the terrified looks on the faces of the citizens when I turned over. I also remember being embarrassed that I was lying in the water (from the fire hoses); losing my left shoe and helmet; and losing track of my chief officer (Marion McGill.) Of the hundreds of structure fires I’ve responded to since the tragedy, I always remembered that it’s the inevitable “unknowns” (power lines; gas lines; structure collapse, back drafts, etc.) that change lives (or take them) that exist at every fire scene.

2. Did this fire help define you?

It defined the importance of training in my mind. As an Incident Commander, I always handle an emergency scene as a “worse case scenario.” Murphy’s Law will always catch up with you: If it can happen, it will happen.

3. Did this fire change your path, your direction?

Although I had been an Atlanta fireman for three years (in 1971) and fought dozens of structure fires by that time, I felt a need to redouble my efforts in training: Pre-fire planning; “reading smoke” coursework; building construction methods (especially commercial buildings); fire behavior; “self-rescue” techniques, etc.

4. Did the creation phase of the book Tragedy on Luckie Street bring up bad memories?

Post Traumatic Shock Disorder is a very real condition. Before my fire department career I had been a medical technician at the old Georgia Baptist Hospital (today’s Atlanta Medical Center), as well as being a US Air Force veteran. I’ve known life and death situations all of my life. (I’m the son of a career US Army soldier.) I can’t say with all honesty that reliving the events of that evening were debilitating; however, knowing four of your teammates were killed so violently makes me demand today that my troops all train (and be equipped) in the most professional manner possible.
5. What lessons did you learn from the fire?

There are many, not the least of which is the importance of a strong “incident command system”; pre-incident planning of all commercial buildings; self-rescue techniques and equipment; etc.

6. What does this book mean to survivors and those killed?

It has become a mainstay in the fire service that “we will never forget”, more especially after the events of September 11th. I know of no other professional firefighter who is still on “active duty” today (other than myself) who fought the Luckie Street fire. There was simply no one left to tell the story to the young firefighters of today, or to the family members who were never told the whole story.

7. What advice can you offer other firefighters who live through a traumatic event?

Don’t take “it” home! Stress is a part of everyone’s life, but you can’t let it be debilitating. Alcohol consumption doesn’t solve any problem—in fact, it only makes it worse. Firemen do a lot of “decompressing” by talking about incidents around the engine house, and that’s good. Anytime a fire station “goes quite” the company officer knows there’s a problem. Irritability, lax work production; etc., are all signs that there’s a problem. There are times that “the professionals” (the firemen) need to seek professional help. 

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