Hometown heroes: Victims of corporate America

Daniel Perret-Goluboff

A vicious tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 of last spring, killing 89 people and injuring far more. As is the case with most natural disasters, our degree of removal from the area of impact lends us to understand these casualties more as statistics than actual people.

One such victim, however, is still recieving national news coverage over five months later. That man goes by the name of Mark Lindquist, and his story is truly a heartbreaking one.

Lindquist has dedicated his life to the aid and service of people far less fortunate than he. He works in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities or mental handicaps. This is what Lindquist was doing when the tornado struck Joplin last spring.

With utter disregard for his own personal safety and without hesitance, Lindquist did everything he could to protect several adult males from the group home that he was working with at the time. He piled mattresses on top of them and then laid on top of the mattresses in an effort to prevent these men from literally blowing away.

Despite his good intentions, Lindquist was carried off by the tornado and thrown the distance of nearly two city blocks. He broke every rib in his body and knocked out nearly all of his teeth.

In addition to these and other injuries, Lindquist was in a coma for nearly two months following these injuries. The men whom he attempted to save were all killed.

Lindquist came out of his coma, miraculously, but was faced with medical bills to the tune of more than $2.5 million. That’s quite a bit of money for anyone, let alone a man making barely more than minimum wage working for the good of those less fortunate than he.

Lindquist initially filed for workers compensation, which makes sense given that he was injured on the job. His company’s worker’s compensation provider, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, denied his claim on the basis that “there was no greater risk than the general public at the time that [he was] involved in the Joplin tornado.”

Terrifying, isn’t it? Of course, Lindquist’s story attracted mass amounts of national media coverage. In fact, after the Associated Press released a story last Monday chronicling Lindquist’s journey through hell, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America was quick to change their tune.

According to a statement released by Mike Britt, president of the company, they have decided now that they are committed to aiding Lindquist in any way possible and will be paying his medical bills.

This is not a feel-good ending to Lindquist’s story. This man could receive every accolade of heroism available in our nation and things would still not be right. Why is it that there is no readily available help in our country for people like Lindquist until someone’s — or some company’s — feet are put to the fire?

Accident Fund Insurance Company of America had not decided to pay his bills because it’s the right thing to do; they are paying his bills because they don’t want the bad press. All they’re doing is cutting a potential loss.

Is this truly how we treat those who put themselves at risk for the needs of those less fortunate? In an age where it is increasingly difficult to have faith in our nation’s medical infrastructure, Lindquist’s story has been tainted from that of a true hero into that of another victim of American big business.