Surviving Japan’s Quake, Shaken But Unbroken

Choral director Nate Ingram survived the earthquake in Japan. He told The Root about life in the wake of the cataclysm, with the threat of a nuclear crisis looming.

Courtesy of Nate Ingram
Courtesy of Nate Ingram

Nate Ingram, a choral director and vocal coach based in Japan, is happy to be alive. While practicing on his trumpet in his home this past Friday, the 60-year-old Philadelphia native felt the sharp jolts of the 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake that struck just off the coast of northern Japan on March 11. The quake damaged a nuclear power plant and triggered a ferocious tsunami that demolished entire communities and took thousands of lives.

Ingram, who teaches performing arts at the Tokyo Economic University and hosts an annual music festival, lives in Fukushima City. His home is in the same prefecture as the stricken nuclear power plant and less than an hour’s drive south from Sendai, which bore the brunt of the natural disaster.

Though he was unhurt, Ingram says that the earthquake left his home in disarray. Despite the looming nuclear crisis, he has yet to be evacuated from his studio and adjacent apartment. Right now he’s focused on the hunt for water in nearby mountain springs and getting gasoline for his car.

“I’m alive,” Ingram told The Root in a telephone interview, while he waited behind about 20 cars for gasoline. There were just as many cars behind him. The good thing is, “Everyone is helping each other out,” he said. 

In an exclusive interview with The Root, Ingram shares what it was like living through the fourth-largest earthquake in history, as well as how he’s coping with the aftermath and the threat of a nuclear meltdown in his prefecture. Check it out below:

The Root: Where were you when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit? What happened?

Nate Ingram: I was in my studio playing my trumpet. The room began shaking, and I said: “OK, somebody doesn’t like my playing.” Then it shook some more, and I have a really big space.

As the trembling intensified, I changed my tune — sounded a bit soprano. I rushed to hug a support beam in the middle of the floor. You’d have thought that beam was my long-lost lover. My furniture started dancing, and wine glasses flew out everywhere. After the first shock, the people in the clothing factory downstairs were screaming for me to come down.

My stuff is all over the place, but I’m alive.

TR: What went through your mind?