This October has been extraordinary for Downtown Santa Cruz. As the executive director for the Downtown Association, I have had the privilege to host a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The occasion was certainly a somber remembrance of the community’s losses; lost buildings, many lost businesses, lost jobs and, most tragically, loss of life. It was also, however, an undeniable time for celebration.
As I have been reliving downtown’s devastation of ’89, I have heard hundreds of stories of near misses and irony, stories of awe and adrenaline. Perhaps my favorite recount is of the 4-year- old girl watching Sesame Street, looking up for just a moment to respond to the frightened beckoning of her mother through the falling books and shaking furniture “But mom, I didn’t do it!” And while everyone has their own memory to share, the theme that continues to be retold is the one we all remember of the selfless service that the whole town seemed to gravitate toward. As people assessed the damages to buildings, the displaced businesses, with the very future of downtown in question, a remarkable community united around the idea of helping. Soon the question everyone was asking themselves, and each other, was, “What can I do?”