Fortunately, no one was killed. Its residents picked themselves up quickly, brushed themselves off and got down to the business of putting life back to normal.
Loma Prieta left a path of destruction. Businesses were obliterated and homes were destroyed.
Los Gatos Police Sergeant Kerry Harris had been on the job for just one year.
"Buildings had fallen down, there were bricks were strewn all over the streets, cars crushed, even in our police station, which is seismically designed, there were light fixtures on the floor," Harris said.
Joanne Benjamin was the mayor in 1989; she was at home when the quake struck.
"Everything that was breakable broke," Benjamin said.
As a mom and a mayor, she faced daunting issues.
"I had to go to Town Hall and set up the emergency center," Benjamin said.
She was coping with shock, gas leaks and evacuations.
The Los Gatos Coffee Company was one of the first businesses to reopen, making coffee for emergency workers.
"We were one of the locations where people were posting messages for one another," Los Gatos Coffee Company owner Teri Hope said.
Nearby, the 100-year-old Beckwith building was hit severely.
"I could feel it move, I could hear it move, and smell it," Carol Hargett said.
Carol and Joe Hargett owned the Dolce Spazio gelato shop. Loma Prieta put them out of business.
"We knew we lost everything in 15 seconds, but we decided it was worth the stay, 'we'll just start over again,' and that's exactly what we did," Carol Hargett said.
They opened a new store a few blocks away. Twenty years later it is still a success.
ABC7 first met Bobbie Shore and her granddaughter in 1989 camping outside their home, not ready to move back in.
"It was very scary, it just seemed like everything was going to fall down," Shore said then.
That memory has not faded 20 years later.
"We thought it was the end of the world, we all thought that, some of us said it," Shore said.
Shore was serving dinner for her husband when it hit. The movement pushed her to the floor.
"He looked at me and I looked at him and he said, 'I think we'd better crawl out of here,'" Shore said.
Damage to their home was minimal; the house was bolted to the foundation.
Shore's neighbor was not as prepared.
"The brick chimney had fallen on his new sports car and he was petrified," Shore said. "I just hugged him and said, 'Just call on the name of Jesus,' and then I remembered he was Jewish," Shore said, laughing.
Restaurants provided food for emergency workers. C.B. Hannegan's opened its doors to everyone, the bar stacked with food.
"That really sealed it for a lot of locals; they don't forget that," Carol Hargett said.
Four days after the earthquake, the Town Council told residents they would put the community back together.
And they did. It was a community coming together, rebuilding stronger than before with a sense of urgency and a commitment to tough new standards.
The town was able to raise about $14 million in bonds to restore downtown, making it look better than before. The town now has an emergency plan that is constantly updated. But are they ready?
"I don't think so, we're not well enough prepared for what is inevitably is going to be a big one," Joe Hargett said.
Even so, would that make people move?
"I'm a native Californian; this is the best place on earth, I wouldn't want to leave my home," Bobbie Shore said.
'89 QUAKE FULL COVERAGE:
Web exclusive content commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. Includes extended interviews with reporters who covered the quake, as well as city officials and first responders who lived through it all.