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Dec 01st
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Santa Cruz & the Loma Prieta Earthquake

cover01She rattled the earth—and our senses—but the great quake of 1989 also made us take action. A look back at the unforgettable events that forced the county to shape the future.  Maybe it’s just the DNA of nature, the world or the universe, but if you look closely enough, you’ll notice that great things emerge from rubble. Plants, in their seedling states, in fact, have to rise through a lot of manure before they shine proudly toward the sun. You can say that about Santa Cruz County, too. It’s certainly had its challenging days, as the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake proved all too well. Loma, powerful as she was, shook the county to its core on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1989. Registering 7.1. on the Richter scale (later downgraded to 6.9), it annihilated most of downtown Santa  Cruz, devastated portions of Watsonville and ravaged many parts of mountain communities like Ben Lomond and Felton. Nobody seemed to have been left unscathed—inside and out. But in the aftermath, as the fires burned and locals sifted through all the wreckage, the community came together in ways nobody could have expected. On the following pages, GT looks back at the events of that fateful day. We chronicle the unique takes of a photographer who was on the scene on Pacific Avenue, right after the quake hit (Reflections Behind the Lens). We showcase the beginning stages of how downtown Santa Cruz began a new journey ahead. We also interview local politicos of the day (Looking Back, Looking Ahead) and look back on the importance of remembering such events (Memory Matters, On That Day, Rumblings form the Past). Beyond that, there are celebrations to note, too (see below) and other first-hand accounts of an unforgettable day that generated a powerful ripple effect—and a monstrous sea change—into a community whose spirit always seemed destined to soar. --GREG ARCHER
See all Loma Prieta earthquake articles in the Santa Cruz History section >
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