Looking back at 1989 Loma Prieta quake in Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake forever changed the city of Santa Cruz, and in particular, its downtown core.

ABC7 ORIGINALS: 'The Earthquake Effect' provides in-depth coverage on Bay Area's readiness for the next major earthquake

"I saw black smoke rising from the downtown area, and I thought, 'Oh my God, the downtown's on fire.' But, it turned out it was just the dust from buildings that had collapsed," said local historian Ross Gibson.

Gibson served on a committee called "Vision Santa Cruz" that was created to help the city rebuild its downtown, one that had been struggling, well before the quake.

RELATED: 30 years after Loma Prieta quake, scientists call Bay Area 'Tectonic Time Bomb'

"We had to get stakeholders from different sides of the spectrum to come together. You had the business community, you had the historic preservation community, you had neighbors and people who use the downtown," said Gibson.

Like many that day, Tom Brezsny, community leader and realtor, was getting ready to head home to watch the World Series when the shaking started. He says 40 percent of the buildings downtown were damaged beyond repair.

RELATED: Bridging the Faults - The catastrophic fall and slow rise of the Bay Bridge after Loma Prieta

"People can remember the sights, the sounds, the smells even of that day," said Brezsny. "It was a visceral watershed moment for many, many individuals, and those stories are still flowing through the heart of Santa Cruz."

Downtown Santa Cruz has since become a vibrant and pedestrian-friendly hub that many other cities across the country have tried to replicate.

Take a look at ABC7's in-depth coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake here.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.