At a glance
Tragedy on Luckie Street is available at online book sellers. A portion of proceeds will go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Atlanta Fire Foundation.
Donna Bowman was living in California in 1971 when an Atlanta fire claimed the lives of four firefighters and injured nearly 30 others.
It wasn’t until many years later that she learned about the incident from one of the survivors — her husband and Forsyth County Fire Chief Danny Bowman.
During the 40th anniversary memorial ceremony for the event last year, Donna Bowman saw the impact the incident had on not only her husband, but the other survivors and families of those who died.
“I realized this wasn’t just his story. It deeply affected all the others involved with it,” she said.
What started off as a memorial gift for her husband on Father’s Day last year turned into her fifth book, “Tragedy on Luckie Street.”
“There were so many lessons learned from this fire,” she said. “It was a shame that the lessons were being lost with history. It was just fading away.
“I was absolutely amazed at the different aspects, the different stories people had. They’re such amazing people.”
Donna Bowman said she spent a full year writing the book. She interviewed survivors, talked to families and researched information, including that two firefighters had received medals of valor from then Gov. Jimmy Carter for their efforts.
“I tracked down this one gentleman’s two sons and when I asked them, they didn’t know what I was talking about. They hadn’t heard about it before,” she said.
“These gentlemen were so humble, they had not discussed it. They didn’t even tell their families about it.”
Danny Bowman said he is proud of the book, saying his wife “put her heart into” it.
“There could be nothing more meaningful for me as a firefighter than to have the true story of the tragedy written,” he said. “There were many personal stories that came out of that evening. I was blown clear of the building, as were several other firemen who landed in the street with me.
“But eight of the firefighters fell through the floor and only four were able to get out. Many of those other individuals fighting fire with me that night are still young enough that they have a clear remembrance of exactly what we were doing that evening.”
Donna Bowman’s work on the Luckie Street fire is a departure from her previous four books.
Until this story, she had been a children’s author, penning a book about dinosaurs, the moon and two about animals, including her most recent, “Big Cats.”
She continues to work in children’s writing, but said she felt a calling to write her first nonfiction book.
“This was a story that needed to be written down,” she said. “I can’t say that it’s a story I chose. Sometimes the stories choose you.”