March 26, 1986
Midland, Texas, U.S.
|Other names||Jessica McClure Morales|
|Known for||Falling into a well at 18 months old|
|Spouse(s)||Daniel Morales (m. 2006)|
Jessica McClure Morales (born March 26, 1986) became famous at the age of 18 months after she fell into a well in her mom's backyard in Midland, Texas on October 14, 1987. Between that day and October 16, rescuers worked around-the-clock for 58 consecutive hours to free her from the eight-inch (20 cm) well casing 22 feet (6.7 m) below the ground. The story gained worldwide attention (leading to some criticism as a media circus), and later became the subject of a 1989 ABC television movie Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure. As presented in the film, the relatively new technology of waterjet cutting was a vital part of the rescue.
The rescue of McClure proved to be a much more difficult ordeal than was initially anticipated. Within hours of beginning the emergency procedure, the Midland Fire and Police Departments devised a plan that involved drilling an additional shaft parallel to the well and then drilling a perpendicular tunnel from the shaft toward where the child was stuck in the well. Enlisting the help of a variety of local (often out-of-work) oil-drillers, the Midland officials had hoped to free McClure in a matter of minutes. However, the first workers to arrive on the scene found their tools barely adequate in penetrating the thick rock that surrounded the well. It would take approximately six hours to complete the parallel shaft and a substantially longer period of time to drill the tunnel, attributable to the fact that the jackhammers used were developed primarily for drilling downward, as opposed to sideways. A mining engineer was eventually brought in to help supervise and coordinate the rescue effort. Forty-five hours after McClure had fallen into the well, the rescue shaft and tunnel were finally completed.
Ron Short, a muscular roofing contractor who was born without collar bones because of cleidocranial dysostosis and so could collapse his shoulders to work in cramped corners, arrived at the site and offered to go down the shaft. They considered his offer, but did not use it. One report said that he helped to clear tunneling debris away.
Ultimately, Midland Fire Department paramedic Robert O'Donnell was able to inch his way down into the tunnel and wrestle McClure free from the confines of the well, handing her to fellow paramedic Steve Forbes, who carried her up to safety. In a sad twist of fate, O'Donnell, battling posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the arduous rescue effort and struggling to cope with the abrupt decline of the fame and recognition that had been lavished on him following his heroic act, committed suicide with a shotgun blast eight years later.
CNN, then a fledgling cable news outlet, was on the scene with around-the-clock coverage of the rescue effort. This massive media saturation of the ordeal prompted then-President Ronald Reagan to state that "everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on."
From the beginning and throughout the incident, the switchboard of local media outlet KMID-TV was flooded with telephone calls from news organizations and private individuals around the world, seeking the latest information on rescue efforts. In some cases, they shared their own insight into this and similar incidents.
In 1988, McClure and her family appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to talk about the incident.
ABC made a television movie of the story in 1989, Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, starring Patty Duke and Beau Bridges. It featured many participants in the actual rescue and its coverage as extras.
She was trapped in there with a broken arm in the dark, in a life-and-death situation she was singing nursery rhymes to herself and being brave...It made my problems seem tiny. So as a prayer to her and myself, I decided I wasn't going to drink till she got out of that well. It was like I was tricking myself, telling myself that I wasn't going to quit for good, just until she got out. It took three days to get her out, and I haven't had a drink since.
Following McClure's rescue on October 16, 1987, surgeons had to amputate a toe due to gangrene from loss of circulation while the toddler was in the well. She also has a scar on her forehead where her head rubbed against the well casing. She had 15 surgeries over the years and has no first-hand memory of the event. Her parents divorced a few years after the rescue. She graduated from Greenwood High School, in a small community near Midland, in May 2004.
On January 28, 2006, nineteen year old McClure married Daniel Morales at Church of Christ in Notrees, Texas, just outside Midland. They met at a day care center where she worked with his sister. They have two children.
When McClure turned 25 on March 26, 2011, she received a trust fund of donations worth up to $800,000. Her father said she had discussed setting up a trust fund for the college education of her children. It had earlier helped in the purchase of her present home, which is less than two miles (3.2 km) from the site of the incident.
In popular culture
- Lucie Brock-Broido's long narrative poem "Jessica from the Well" tells the story from McClure's point of view, describing her as having a basic understanding of the physical and mythic elements of her situation. It has been reprinted numerous times.
- Floyd Collins, an early case of "man trapped in cave" that received similar coverage in 1925
- 2010 Copiapó mining accident, a similarly highly covered event
- Kathy Fiscus, a child who died after falling in a well in 1949
- Alfredo Rampi, a child who died after falling in a well in 1981
- Tikki Tikki Tembo
- The Well, 1951 film in which a little girl falls down a well and the town unites to save her by drilling a parallel shaft
- Kennedy, J. Michael (October 17, 1987). "Jessica Makes It to Safety—After 58 1/2 Hours". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Scott, Ronald W. (November 1988). "Cleidocranial Dysplasia: An Enigma Among Anomalies" (PDF). The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 10 (5): 184–8. ISSN 0190-6011. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Staff. "1988 Winners and Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Columbia University. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Koch, Wendy (May 29, 2007). "Lives of Indelible Impact". USA Today. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Kot, Greg (September 28, 2010). "How 'Baby Jessica' Saved Blues Great Charlie Musselwhite". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
- Blaney, Betsy (March 25, 2011). "Baby Jessica turns 25, gains access to trust fund". Xfinity News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 26, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
- Celizic, Mike (November 6, 2007). "Baby Jessica 20 Years Later". MSNBC. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Brock-Broido, Lucie (1988). "Jessica, from the Well". A Hunger. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780394563374.