Luckie Street Fire
Davis Brothers Restaurant
Atlanta, GA
Q & A with Donna H. Bowman 
Author, Tragedy on Luckie Street

(PDF Available)

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. 

More information is available on the Media page.

 

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