Parents want only what’s best for their children. The idea of something bad ever happening to their kids is every parent’s worse nightmare. Sadly, sometimes bad things happen to good people. As much as parents might try to protect their kids from harm’s way, they can’t completely shield them from accidents and mishaps.
The unthinkable happened in Midland, Texas, on October 14, 1987. When Jessica McClure Morales, better known as Baby Jessica, fell into a well in her Aunt’s backyard. Jessica was only 18 months old when she tumbled down into the darkness of that shaft.
It took rescuers, working around the clock, 56 hours to free her from the 8 inch stone well casing at a depth of 22 feet below ground level. The story of Baby Jessica’s triumphant rescue that broadcast across the nation. And later adapted into a 1989 made-for-TV film entitled Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure.
During the rescue, Americans couldn’t help but follow the around-the-clock news coverage as the situation unfolded. Then-President Ronald Reagan quoted as saying that ‘everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers’ of Jessica while they glued to their television sets hoping for the best.
It’s been 34 years since Baby Jessica pull from that narrow well. Let’s check in with her and see where Jessica’s life has taken her in the three-plus decades since her rescue.
You won’t believe what Jessica looks like today! It’s crazy to think that’s she is the same person that heard singing the Winnie the Pooh theme song; As rescuers drilled down to save her so many years ago.
But first, let’s take a look back at the harrowing incident that captured our hearts and minds.
After falling into the well, firefighters and police from Midland came up with a plan to drill a shaft parallel to the one Baby Jessica was lodged. After completing that shaft, they planned to drill yet another horizontal tunnel to rescue her.
Seeking the help of oil drillers from around the area. Officials hoped that they would be able to free Baby Jessica quickly; But their optimism put to the test when it discover that the well encase by rock.
The jackhammers that rescuers had on hand determine to be inadequate for the task seeing as how they design for downward, not horizontal drilling.
Eventually, a mining engineer arrived at the scene and volunteered his services to help coordinate the rescue effort. It is by using a relatively new technology called waterjet cutting to cut through the rock surrounding the well shaft.
Even with this piece of tech at their disposal, rescuers began to grow worried as it took more time than anticipated to make progress. 45 hours after Baby Jessica had fallen into the well, the parallel shaft and horizontal tunnel were complete. While drilling, rescuers could hear the distinct sound of Jessica singing her favorite song, the theme to ‘Winnie the Pooh’.
Once they had finished drilling, a roofing contractor by the name of Ron Short, who had been born without collarbones. Volunteered to go down into the shaft since he had the ability to collapse his shoulders and squeeze his way into tight spaces.
The rescue team considered his offer. But ultimately a paramedic named Robert O’Donnell was able to squeeze into the tunnel. And free Jessica from her lodged position in the well. When they finally reached her, Jessica had one leg above her forehead; a gash on her forehead, and an injured foot.
After O’Donnell wrestled her free, he handed Jessica her to a fellow paramedic, who then carried her up to safety. Once out of the shaft, that paramedic then handed her off to another paramedic who carried her to a nearby ambulance that had been on standby waiting for her to emerge.
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Media Coverage And Aftermath
After being rescue. Baby Jessica had to have one of her toes amputated due to gangrene that had set in when it lost circulation while she got trap in the well. The gash on her forehead which cause when her head rubbed against the well wall healed, but left with a scar.
In total, Baby Jessica needed 15 surgeries to tend to her injuries. Fortunately, however, she was able to make a full recovery.
Despite how dramatic the incident was, Jessica says that she has no memory of it.
On the national level, CNN covered the rescue effort in-depth as it unfolded. Throughout the whole ordeal, local ABC affiliate KMID-TV, received phone calls from news organizations and worried citizens from around the world asking for the latest information on the situation.
After she had recovered from her injuries; Jessica and her parents went on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to discuss the incident.
In 1988, Photographer Scott Shaw of the Odessa American awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for this photo of Baby Jessica’s rescue.
While Baby Jessica’s rescue is certainly miraculous, sadly not everything will be ‘happily ever after’ for those that were involved in her recovery. Jessica’s parent’s divorced citing irreconcilable differences in 1990. They were just 18-years old when they were suddenly thrust into the spotlight. After their daughter’s rescue, they found themselves overwhelmed by the whirlwind of publicity. And suddenly become a central part of their lives. Their divorce was an especially messy one. And the tabloids covered every last bit of gossip that they could get their hands on. Fortunately, both of Jessica’s parents went on to remarry.
The paramedic that pulled her from the well, Robert O’Donnell sadly committed suicide. It is on April 27, 1995 at the relatively young age of 37 by shooting himself in the head. It’s thought that he had suffered from severe PTSD in the years following Baby Jessica’s rescue.
Jessica’s Life Post-Rescue
Baby Jessica’s childhood remained fairly normal despite the media fiasco that she had been apart of. It wasn’t until she was five years old that she learned what had happened to her when she was just a baby. While watching an episode of the series Rescue 911 that covered her rescue, she asked her step mother who the little girl was that had fallen down the well.
In 2002, 15-year old Jessica told reporters that the incident ‘bored her. In that interview, she also disclosed that she was living with rheumatoid arthritis.
After graduating from Midland’s Greenwood High School in 2004, Jessica McClure went on to marry the love of her life, Daniel Morales, at the Church of Christ in Notrees, Texas, on January 28, 2006. The couple met at a day care facility where Jessica had worked alongside her sister. Since then they have been busy raising a family of their own.
Jessica and Daniel welcomed a baby boy into their lives in 2007. Two years later Jessica gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
When Jessica turned 25 in 2011, she gained access to a trust fund that had been set up by her parents and comprise of donations she had received from around the world. She used some of those funds to buy her home and says that she plans on using the rest to pay for her children’s college tuition.
In 2017, Jessica interview by People magazine. Reflecting back on her experience getting rescued from that well, she expressed her belief that God had been on her side that day. She went on to say that her life was ‘a miracle’.
Jessica’s life certainly is a bit of miracle. Alongside her husband and two children, Simon and Sheyenne, Jessica counts her blessings daily as she works as a special-education teacher’s aide at a local elementary school. Daniel, who prefers to go by Danny, works as a foreman at a pipe supply company.
While some may think that Jessica wound up very wealthy from that trust fund, in reality, much of the $1.2 million of the trust wiped out by the economic disaster of 2008. The remainder, she plans on holding on to make sure that her children have a decent head start in life.
Jessica’s children are now finally old enough to comprehend what she went through back in ’87. She told the outlet that they’ve also both Googled images of the scene of the rescue.
The main thing that Jessica says that she hopes her children can learn from her experience is the importance of always remaining humble. She also wants them to know that there are still good people out there in the world. Beyond those two vital life lessons, Jessica merely wants to make sure that her kids don’t feel like they are stuck living in her shadow.
Many people say that the Baby Jessica rescue incident was the turning point in the history of cable news networks. Her story credited with giving rise 24-hour news coverage.
Some of you might also be wondering what happened to the well that little Baby Jessica fell into. Just 2 miles away from Jessica’s current home, the well been sealed up and memorialize with the message ‘For Jessica 10-16-87 – With love from all of us’.
To this day, the well attracts hundreds of tourists a year.
Can you think of any other major rescue incidents that made headlines in your lifetime? And do you think it would be difficult to go about living your life after being involved in such a world-famous event like Jessica was? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section down below.
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