EXCLUSIVE: Joplin’s LGBT community comes together in aftermath of Sunday’s deadly tornado

Lee McDaniel

Some members of the LGBT community in Joplin, Mo. are still unaccounted for in the wake of Sunday’s deadly tornado, according to Lee McDaniel, founder and president of the Joplin Pride Center.

McDaniel said no members of the community have been confirmed to be among the 117 people killed Sunday when the deadliest U.S. tornado of the last 60 years struck Joplin. However, many in the town’s small but tight-knit LGBT community have lost their homes, vehicles and workplaces, and some undoubtedly have lost family members, McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the local MCC congregation, the Spirit of Christ MCC, was holding services when Sunday’s twister struck. Everyone made it to the basement and no one was seriously injured, but the building where the church met was leveled, and members’ vehicles were destroyed.

McDaniel was in Rhode Island on business when the tornado struck, and he said reliable Internet access and cell phone service have allowed him to serve as an information broker for the LGBT community in Joplin, where’s he’s lived for most of his life.

“There are still a few people unaccounted for, and people are still up on Facebook desperately trying to find this person or that person,” McDaniel told Instant Tea from Rhode Island this morning. “The community is waiting with bated breath on the other people, and on our friends and neighbors and co-workers. People are coming together. They’re not asking what color you are or who you sleep with; they’re asking, ‘Are you OK? Do you need anything?’”

—  John Wright